Latex Allergy

Latex is a rubber product made from sap of rubber trees. Many items at home, in the community and in a hospital may contain latex.

Common latex items include:

  • Balloons
  • Pacifiers and bottle nipples
  • Beach and water toys
  • Toys
  • Infant toothbrush massager
  • Koosh rubber and tennis balls
  • Art supplies (paint, glue, erasers)
  • Dental products (mouth guards)
  • Dental dams
  • Sport shoes and rubber clothing (raincoats, elastic on underwear and socks)
  • Disposable diapers
  • Zippered plastic storage bags
  • Kitchen cleaning gloves
  • Condoms, diaphragms
  • Rubber bands, Band-Aids

Common latex hospital items include:

  • Surgical and exam gloves
  • IV tubing injection sites
  • Catheters
  • Adhesive tape
  • Electrode pads
  • Blood pressure cuffs
  • Tourniquets
  • Stethoscopes
  • Crutch tips, axillary pads
  • Hand grips on racquets, bicycles and tools
  • Bed sheet protectors called Chux
  • Elastic bandages
  • Wheelchair tires and cushions
  • Ace® Wraps
  • Medication vials

Any item that is light brown and can be stretched may contain latex. The items that are listed can be replaced with items made from vinyl, plastic, or silicone.

Some children may have a contact sensitivity to latex. Other children may have an actual allergy to Latex.

Some children are more likely to become latex sensitive. These are children who have frequent exposure to latex from medical procedures, including:

  • Children with spina bifida
  • Children with complex genitourinary disease
  • Children with chronic indwelling medical devices made of latex such a nasogastric tubes, G-tubes, or suprapubic catheters
  • Children who have had many surgeries
  • Children who have allergies to certain foods may also have a latex allergy. Both the foods and the latex may have some of the same proteins.

Some commonly eaten foods which contain some of the same proteins as latex include the following examples:

  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Chestnuts
  • Kiwi
  • Apple
  • Carrot
  • Passion fruit
  • Papaya
  • Potato
  • Figs
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Melons

Reactions can be seen when products made from latex come in contact with the child’s skin, mucous membranes in the mouth, genitals, bladder, or rectum, or the bloodstream (during surgery). Some children may also react when blowing up a rubber balloon or breathing in powder from the inside of latex gloves.

When children have a sensitivity to latex, they can get redness, itching or swelling where the latex touched the skin. When a child with a latex allergy comes in contact with a latex product, they can have the following symptoms:

  • Watery or itchy eyes
  • Wheezing
  • Hives
  • Flushing of the skin or a skin rash
  • Itching of the skin
  • Swelling of the skin

The symptoms of a latex allergy may look like other medical conditions. Always consult your child’s physician for a diagnosis.

In some cases, severe reactions (“anaphylactic shock”) can occur and the child may have problems breathing, experience chest tightness, or have swelling of his/her throat or tongue. Severe reactions require emergency treatment.

Treatment of reactions includes antihistamines, adrenaline, and steroids.

Avoidance of the allergen is the most effective way to manage any allergy. In order to prevent a latex allergy attack:

  • Avoid all latex products at home and in the hospital (Use items that do not have latex in them)
  • Ask your child’s doctor to evaluate him/her for pre-medication before surgery to help prevent a reaction
  • Use a MedicAlert™ bracelet or necklace
  • Carry a pair of non-latex gloves, information about latex allergies, and/or a note from your child’s doctor
  • Be sure hospital and school records have a latex allergy alert
  • Teach your child to know and avoid latex products
  • Ask your child’s doctor about the use of injectable epinephrine for your child in the event of an emergency. Have it available for your child in all of his/her surroundings (at home, in the car, at daycare, etc.)
  • Know what to do in case of an emergency (discuss this with your child’s doctor and school nurse)
  • Avoid areas where your child may inhale latex molecules

Latex-free alternatives/barriers include:

  • Elmers™ (school glue, Glue-All, Glue Colors, Carpenters Wood Glue, Sno-Drift Paste), FaberCastel® art erasers, Crayola® products (except for rubber stamps, erasers)
  • Liquitex® paints
  • Mylar balloons
  • PVC (Hedstrom Sports Ball®)
  • Provide a barrier: cloth or mat; wooden floors
  • Polyurethane female condom (Reality®), Polymer®, polyurethane male condoms soon on market
  • Cover with cloth or tape
  • Wire springs
  • Tranquility®, First Quality®, Huggies® and Gold Seal® diapers (use Velcro® closures)
  • Cover elastic with cloth (Decent Exposures®)
  • Synthetic non-latex gloves for food handling
  • Silicone bottle nipples (Gerber®, Evenflo®, MAM®)
  • Vinyl or leather handles
  • Vinyl, cotton liners (Allerderm®) under kitchen gloves
  • Toys such as Jurassic Park figures (Kenner®), 1993 Barbie™, Disney dolls (Mattel®), many toys by Fisher Price®, Little Tikes®, Playschool Discovery®
  • String instead of rubber bands
  • Waxed paper, plain plastic bags

Your child’s caregivers include dentists, physical/occupational therapists, physicians and nurses, teachers, daycare providers and babysitters, and friends and family members. Inform your child’s caregivers if:

  • Your child has ever had any type of reaction to a latex product
  • You think your child has had a reaction to latex
  • Your child has an unexplained allergic reaction during an operation