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?

Natural rubber latex, a milky fluid found in rubber trees, has a contaminating protein in the rubber that causes allergic reactions, not with the rubber itself. Different types of gloves, condoms, balloons, rubber bands, erasers, and toys are made from natural rubber latex. Children and adults have developed an allergy or sensitivity to latex. 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). 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?

When the person has contact with products that contain latex you may see watery or itchy eyes, wheezing, hives, flushing or a skin rash, itching, or swelling. In some cases, severe reactions (anaphylactic shock) can occur in which the person may have problems breathing, experience chest tightness, or have swelling of his or her throat or tongue. Severe reactions require prompt emergency treatment.

Who is at risk for developing latex allergy?

Some people are more likely to become latex sensitive. These are people who have frequent exposure to latex from medical procedures. This group includes:

  • Children with spina bifida

  • Children born with urologic anomalies

  • Children or adults who have had many surgeries

People 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. Commonly eaten foods which contain some of the same proteins as latex include: bananas, avocados, chestnuts, kiwi, passion fruit, papaya, figs, peaches, nectarines, plums, tomatoes, and celery.

What to avoid if allergic to latex?

Many items at home and in the hospital are made from latex. These include:

Home and community

Hospital

Balloons (excluding mylar)

Koosh balls, rubber balls

Pacifiers, bottle nipples

Condoms, diaphragms

Beach toys, art supplies

Rubber bands, Band-Aids

Wheelchair tires

Raincoats

Disposable diapers

Chux

Surgical and exam gloves

IV tubing injection sites

Catheters

Adhesive tape

Electrode pads

Blood pressure cuffs

Tourniquets

Stethoscopes

... and many more items

Any item that is light brown in color and can be stretched may contain latex. 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

  • Avoid all latex products at home and in the hospital. Use items that do not have latex in them.

  • Ask your doctor to evaluate you for premedication before surgery to help prevent a reaction.

  • Use a Medic-Alert bracelet or necklace.

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

  • Be sure hospital and school (for a child with a latex allergy) records have a latex allergy alert.

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

  • Ask your doctor about the use of injectable epinephrine. Have it available for yourself and your child in all surroundings (at home, in the car, at day care, or at work)

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

  • Avoid areas where you may inhale latex molecules from health care workers.

Please note: Avoiding latex products may decrease the chance of developing this allergy for your child.

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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