Latex Allergies

What is a latex allergy?

Some children have an allergy or sensitivity to latex (rubber). Reactions can be seen when products made from latex come in contact with the child’s skin, mucous membranes in the mouth, genitals, bladder, 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.

What are the symptoms of a latex allergy?

When a child with a latex allergy comes in contact with products that contain latex, they may experience 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

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

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

Who is at risk for developing latex allergy?

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 born with anomalies of the urinary system
  • 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. Commonly eaten foods which contain some of the same proteins as latex include the following:

  • bananas
  • avocados
  • chestnuts
  • kiwi
  • passion fruit
  • papaya
  • figs
  • peaches
  • nectarines
  • plums
  • tomatoes
  • celery

What precautions should I take if I suspect (or know) that my child has a latex allergy?

Parents and guardians should alert all of a child’s care providers, including his or her surgeon, if the child has a confirmed or suspected latex allergy. The surgical team will plan for a latex-free surgery and postoperative environment.

Caregivers should also exercise the precautions below:

  • Patients with latex allergies should avoid ALL latex products at home and in the hospital.
  • Ask the child’s physician to evaluate him or her for pre-medication before surgery to help prevent a reaction.
  • Use a Medic-Alert bracelet or necklace.
  • Carry a pair of non-latex gloves, information about latex allergies, and/or a note from the child’s physician.
  • Be sure hospital and school records have a latex allergy alert.
  • Teach the child to know and avoid latex products.
  • Ask the child’s physician about the use of injectable epinephrine for the child in the event of an emergency. Have it available for the child in all of his or her surroundings (at home, in the car, at daycare, etc.).
  • Know what to do in case of an emergency.

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CHOC Children's is affiliated with the UC Irvine School of Medicine