Conditions & Treatments

Latex Allergy

Some children and adults have an allergy or sensitivity to latex (rubber). Reactions can be seen when products made from latex come in contact with the person's skin, mucous membranes (like the mouth, genitals, bladder or rectum), or the bloodstream (during surgery).

Latex Allergy

What is a latex allergy?

A cluster of colorful balloons agains a blue sky.

Natural rubber latex is a milky fluid found in rubber trees. There is a protein in the fluid that can cause allergic reactions in some people. Some gloves, condoms, balloons, rubber bands, erasers, and toys are made using this natural rubber latex. Reactions to latex products occur when it comes in contact with the person's skin, mucous membranes (like the nostrils, mouth, or rectum), or the bloodstream (during surgery). For example, some people may react when blowing up a rubber balloon or breathing in powder from the inside of latex gloves.

What are the symptoms of a latex allergy?

Symptoms of latex allergy include:

  • Itchy or watery eyes

  • Wheezing or whistling sound with breathing

  • Hives or raised, itchy bumps on the skin

In some cases, severe reactions (anaphylactic shock) can occur and cause:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Chest tightness

  • Swelling of the throat or tongue

Severe reactions require prompt emergency treatment.

Who is at risk for developing latex allergy?

People who have frequent exposure to latex from medical procedures are at greater risk for developing latex allergy. They include:

  • Children with spina bifida

  • Children born with defects of the urinary system

  • Children or adults who have had many surgeries

People who have allergies to certain foods may also have latex allergies. The foods include: bananas, avocados, chestnuts, kiwi, passion fruit, papaya, figs, peaches, nectarines, plums, tomatoes, and celery.

What should you avoid if you have latex allergy?

Many items are made from latex. These include:

Everyday items

Medical supplies

Balloons

Balls

Pacifiers, bottle nipples

Condoms, diaphragms

Rubber bands

Raincoats, rain boots

Surgical and exam gloves

IV tubing injection sites

Catheters

Bandages

Adhesive tape

Electrode pads

Blood pressure cuffs

Tourniquets

Stethoscopes

Wheelchair tires

... and many more items

There are items that can be used in place of the items that contain latex. They are made from vinyl, plastic, or silicone.

If you are allergic to latex

  • Try to avoid all latex products. Use items that do not have latex in them.

  • If you need surgery or a procedure, talk to your health care provider about what you can do to prevent exposure and reactions to latex.

  • Wear a Medic-Alert bracelet or necklace with information about your allergy.

  • Carry a pair of nonlatex gloves with you, information about latex allergies, and/or a note from your doctor.

  • Be sure medical and school records have a latex allergy alert.

  • For a child with a latex allergy, teach him or her to know and avoid latex products.

  • Ask your health care provider about self-injecting epinephrine (or Epi-pens).  Have them at home, in the car, at school, day care, and work.

  • Know what to do in case of an emergency. Discuss this with your child's provider and school nurse (for a child with a latex allergy).

Avoiding latex may decrease the chance of children developing this allergy.

Treatment Programs


Massachusetts General Hospital understands that a variety of factors influence patients' health care decisions. That's just one reason why we're dedicated to ensuring patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Because a single option might not serve all patients, we offer a wide range of coordinated treatments and related services across the hospital. Patients should consult with their primary care doctor or other qualified health care provider for medical advice and diagnosis information.

Select a treatment program for more information:



Imaging

  • Pediatric Imaging
    The Pediatric Imaging Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging specializes in ensuring the safety and comfort of child patients while providing the latest technology and the expertise of specialized pediatric radiologists.
Department of Dermatology

  • The Medical Dermatology Program
    The Medical Dermatology program at Massachusetts General Hospital is a full-service dermatology practice that provides care for all skin, hair and nail conditions.
  • Contact Dermatitis & Occupational Dermatology Clinic
    The Massachusetts General Hospital Contact Dermatitis & Occupational Dermatology Clinic is a referral-based specialty clinic with over 30 years of experience diagnosing and treating allergic reactions of the skin.

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