A latex allergy is a pathological hypersensitivity to latex. Due to its excellent properties, this material can be contained in various everyday objects. These include clothing, condoms, mattresses and medical items, so that latex allergy particularly affects people in the medical profession.
What is a latex allergy?
Before a physical examination, the doctor asks the patient in detail about his lifestyle or his job, since there are occupational risk groups for a latex allergy. A prick test is then carried out. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Latex Allergy.
Latex allergy is one of the most common occupational allergies. Those affected are allergic to natural latex, which consists of the milky sap of rubber trees. Some also do not tolerate artificial latex. The allergy is divided into two different causes of reaction.
On the one hand there is the immediate type, which reacts allergically to certain proteins in rubber. On the other hand, there is the delayed type, in which irritation is caused by certain additives in the latex. The characteristic symptoms include pathological irritation of the skin on the part of the body that came into contact with the latex.
Furthermore, these skin irritations can have negative effects on the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes and stomach. If an acute latex allergy is not treated, a life-threatening anaphylactic shock can be provoked.
The reasons for a latex allergy lie in the ingredients of the latex products, which trigger hypersensitivity in those affected. On the one hand, the allergic reaction can be caused by proteins that are contained in natural latex and are mostly residues from industrial products.
These proteins can form certain IgE antibodies, which the body rejects with irritation. Furthermore, additives that are added to the rubber milk during the manufacture of the latex can cause skin irritation. Additives include substances such as dyes, antioxidants, vulcanization accelerators, antioxidants and vulcanizers.
Mediated by certain cells of the immune system, these allergens only cause health problems after a period of more than twelve hours. Thus, the latex allergy is not always immediately recognizable.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
A latex allergy basically shows the same symptoms as other allergies. Accordingly, the symptoms range from mild discomfort to severe anaphylactic shock. Contact reactions usually occur with a latex allergy.
The skin reddens, wheals can form. Sometimes there is also eczema on the skin. The wheals and redness can remain local or spread. The itching that often accompanies this can vary in severity. If the redness spreads, the eyes usually also swell.
Symptoms similar to those of hay fever can also occur. For example, there is occasionally a secretion in the eyes or out of the nose. Occasionally there is bleeding from the nasal mucosa. There is increased swelling in the nose and tearing. In addition, gastrointestinal complaints can occur, which can manifest themselves in cramps or diarrhea.
Severe symptoms include shortness of breath and severe coughing. In some cases, swelling occurs inside the throat. With intensive contact with the allergen, an allergic shock can occur. The intensity of the symptoms depends on the duration and type of exposure and the severity of the latex allergy.
Diagnosis & History
Before a physical examination, the doctor asks the patient in detail about his lifestyle or his job, since there are occupational risk groups for a latex allergy. A prick test is then carried out. In this test, the patient is exposed to latex in a controlled manner to determine whether skin irritation is caused.
Occasionally, a blood test in the form of a RAST test is also carried out, which, however, has only little significance. A provocation test and a patch test are other diagnostic options. Once a latex allergy has been diagnosed, it usually lasts a lifetime.
However, it can be positively influenced by effective treatment of the acute symptoms and consistent avoidance of the allergens. If it is not treated and contact with the material is not avoided, the symptoms can become severe. A latex allergy can even cause anaphylactic shock.
When should you go to the doctor?
A latex allergy does not always require medical treatment. If contact with the substance is avoided, there are usually no complaints. A doctor’s visit is necessary when signs of an allergy first appear. Redness and skin eczema must be clarified. Above all, longer-lasting or particularly unpleasant skin changes should be examined by a doctor. Those affected should have any allergies diagnosed quickly so that suitable countermeasures can be taken immediately. If you still come into contact with latex, the allergy sufferer must go to a doctor immediately.
This is especially true if severe allergic reactions occur shortly after contact. Serious symptoms such as coughing fits or shortness of breath require immediate treatment. In severe cases, first aid measures must be provided on site. In the event of an allergic shock, the emergency services must be alerted immediately. Further treatment takes place in the hospital. The patient should then have another allergy test carried out to confirm the diagnosis and, if necessary, adjust the medication.
A latex allergy can cause various complaints and symptoms. However, these complaints can be limited relatively easily if the patient completely avoids contact with latex. Due to the latex allergy, touching or prolonged contact causes reddening of the skin. Itching can also occur.
Especially during sexual intercourse, the latex allergy can lead to very unpleasant symptoms and thus completely prevent the affected person from having sexual intercourse. Furthermore, this allergy can also lead to breathing difficulties and, in the worst case, to a complete loss of consciousness in the patient. Stomach and intestinal problems can also occur and additionally reduce the quality of life. Not infrequently, the latex allergy also leads to a shock.
As a rule, a causal treatment of the latex allergy is not possible. Patients must completely avoid latex in their lives. There are no complications. The complaints do not occur if contact with latex is avoided. As a rule, latex allergy does not lead to any particular limitations in the patient’s life. In acute emergencies, sprays can also be used to relieve the symptoms.
Treatment & Therapy
As with all allergies, the most effective treatment for latex allergy is to avoid contact with the allergen. If this is not possible, suitable alternatives must be sought. Alternative materials include synthetic latex, PVC and vinyl. In the case of a severe latex allergy, a career change may also be advisable.
Those affected should also carry an allergy pass. For very sensitive people, there is also an emergency kit that can be handed out by the doctor treating you. This consists of an adrenaline injection, antihistamine tablets and cortisone preparations in the form of lozenges.
In addition to the latex allergy, some of those affected also suffer from a cross-allergy to certain foods. These foods should also be avoided. There are many options for treating acute symptoms. They include antihistamine tablets, which are characterized by rapid effectiveness, and glucocorticoid solutions. An adrenaline spray can also be used. Clinical studies are currently being carried out to determine whether hyposensitization can also be successful in the case of a latex allergy.
Outlook & Forecast
A latex allergy usually lasts for life. Under optimal conditions, the body’s reactions to latex are constant. However, the prognosis can also worsen, since an increase in symptoms has to be documented in some patients over the course of their lives.
In particularly severe cases, hypersensitivity can lead to anaphylactic shock. There is potential danger to life and immediate medical attention is required. Nevertheless, many of those affected can achieve freedom from symptoms if they completely and permanently avoid contact with the triggering stimulus. It is not necessary to administer medication or other medical care. Thanks to industrial development and research, there are various alternative products that can be used. The materials used must therefore be checked for their components. As soon as there is latex in the product, those affected can reach for comparable goods without latex on their own responsibility and independently.
In everyday life, numerous alternatives can be created so that complaints can be completely avoided. It is sufficient for the person concerned to be adequately informed and to point out available alternatives. However, if irregularities and impairments occur, it should be checked which materials and objects the human organism has been in contact with. The earlier the affected person reacts, the faster a change can be made.
There are no preventive measures against latex allergy. A human possesses them, or is not allergic to latex. Therefore, the preventive measures are that those affected do not expose themselves further to the material. These preventive options therefore include the use of alternative materials and comprehensive information about objects containing latex. If the latex allergy is severe, new allergic reactions can sometimes only be avoided by changing jobs.
There is no follow-up care for a latex allergy as such. As with all severe allergies, it consists primarily of prevention. Avoiding the allergen is therefore all the more important for those allergic to latex after an allergic reaction has occurred. It may also be necessary to search the work and living environment intensively in the event of recurring and unexplained allergic reactions. In addition, greater exertion should be avoided after recovering from an allergic reaction in order to protect the heart and breathing.
Follow-up care in the medical sense is only necessary in the event of a severe allergic reaction or anaphylactic shock. This is especially true when the respiratory or circulatory system was involved. In such cases, someone with a latex allergy must remain in the hospital for at least a certain observation period.
In cases where the victim’s body has been severely damaged or weakened, follow-up tests must be carried out. For example, anaphylactic shock can result in a lack of oxygen in the brain, so it is important to monitor the patient’s cognitive functions after they have been stabilized.
In a few cases it may be necessary to have follow-up examinations carried out at regular intervals after an allergic shock. This is the case, for example, when there are ambiguities regarding possible organ damage.
You can do that yourself
Those affected by a latex allergy can do a lot in everyday life to lead a normal life. However, it is not possible to specifically combat latex allergy with alternative healing methods, a specific diet, etc.
Instead, those affected simply have to avoid latex. The modern market now has alternatives to offer for almost every product made of latex. This applies in particular to condoms (polyetheran or hypoallergenic condoms are suitable), gloves and the like. However, there are certain places to avoid. For example, latex can be found in the form of dust particles in workshops, hardware stores, bicycle shops, etc. People with allergies should therefore avoid such places.
To ensure safety in the event of an allergic shock, it is advisable for the person allergic to latex to carry some form of identification with them that can still tell the emergency physicians treating them that they have a latex allergy, even if they are unconscious. This can be implemented, for example, in the form of an SOS wristband or allergy pass. An emergency kit should be left in places where people are often present (home, work, car, etc.) to be used in the event of shock. In the case of cross-allergies (especially to certain fruits), these should also be avoided.