What You Should Know About Latex Allergy


Latex allergy is an emerging health issue believed to affect 5 to 10 percent of

healthcare workers. The increase in the prevalence of latex allergy is believed to be

associated with the increased use of latex gloves by healthcare workers in the mid 80’s

in response to the AIDS epidemic. While statistics are unclear for the prevalence within

the general population, it is estimated that somewhere between 1 to 6 percent of the

general population has been sensitized to latex.

H I G H - R I S K   G R O U P S

• Rubber industry workers.

• Children with spina bifida and others who have undergone multiple medical procedures (where latex products are commonly used).

• Health care workers.


L A T E X   A N D   F O O D   A L L E R G Y   C O N N E C T I O N

People with latex allergy may also experience an allergic reaction to some foods that contain the same allergic proteins as those found in latex. This reaction, called crossreactivity, can be triggered by:

  • bananas kiwi
  • chestnut celery
  • passion fruit melon
  • avocado



S Y M P T O M S   C A N   R A N G E   F R O M   M I L D   T O   S E V E R E

  • Dermatitis itchy, red, watery eyes, (poison ivy-like rash, which appears sneezing 12 to 24 hours after contact) 

  • runny nose 

  • hives coughing

  • rash

  • A severe reaction could include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, shock, loss of consciousness, and death. 



A V O I D A N C E   S T R A T E G I E S

  • There is no cure for latex allergy; avoidance of latex-containing products is the only way to prevent a reaction.
  • Latex-containing products that commonly Latex-containing products* that rarely cause reactions cause reactions
  • Gloves Rubber bands
  • Balloons Erasers
  • Condoms Rubber parts of toys
  • Products made from crepe rubber
  • Latex clothing
  • Elastic in clothing
  • Feeding nipples and pacifiers


Latex Allergy: Everyone's Concern

By Lawrence D. Duffield, DDS
Journal of the Michigan Dental Association
June 1998 

A patient comes into your dental office, a bead of sweat on his forehead. As he nervously inspects his surroundings, his heartbeat quickens. He feels his life could be at stake; his hands are locked to the arms of his chair in a death grip. The dentist, hygienist, and assistant, too, are nervous. The receptionist is poised to speed-dial 911. 


The patient is latex-sensitive. Although no deaths have occurred in a dental setting due to latex allergy, clinicians should maintain a high index of suspicion to prevent a catastrophic reaction..(1) According to FDA Medwatch data as far back as June 1996, there were 28 reported deaths and 225 anaphylactic events associated with latex products in all settings. 

Recent reports in the literature indicate that from about 1 percent to 6 percent of the general population and about 8 percent to 12 percent of regularly exposed health care workers are sensitized to latex (Kelley et al. 1996; Katelaris et al. 1996; Liss et al. 1997; Ownby et al. 1996; Sussman and Beezhold 1995). This means perhaps up to one million health care workers are at risk for latex reactions. 

The chance of a latex-sensitive person coming through your door escalates every day. All health care professionals need to know about this potential hazard and be able to manage it effectively if encountered.(2) Often, an individual may not be aware that it is latex that causes his or her sensitivity. A simple question, such as, "Are you allergic to latex?" may not suffice. [Continue Reading]

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