Latex (a natural rubber) is found everywhere. It is used in condoms, gloves, balloons, rubber bands, shoes, elastic in clothing, diapers, hot water bottles, toys, and a huge variety of other products you may use every day. If you develop an allergy to latex, your world is going to change dramatically.
A friend of mine has a latex allergy, and she told me when her son was born, she almost felt like she was quarantined in the hospital. There were signs all around her room warning of her latex allergy and everyone that came near her washed their hands repeatedly.
These are just some of the precautions hospitals must take when a patient is allergic to latex. Latex gloves are commonly used to protect the patients and the staff from infections and virus. While my friend takes her allergy in stride, and with a fabulous sense of humor, she does have to be cautious in her daily life.
How Does It Happen?
An allergy to latex happens just as any other allergy. Repeated exposures to latex products can suddenly produce a reaction. You may have no problem with latex at first, but after being exposed on numerous occasions, you may suddenly develop an allergy. Latex gloves used in hospitals and other medical facilities, along with the powder used inside them, are common sources of allergic reactions.
Because latex is a foreign matter, your body may react to the proteins in latex by releasing histamines to ‘protect’ the body from the latex. When histamines are released, the allergic reaction occurs. This is a very simple explanation. Your doctor can cover it in more detail for you.
The reaction you may have to latex ranges from mild to severe. Minor reactions may get more severe over time. A mild reaction is usually a red, itchy rash on the part of the body that has touched latex.
The more severe, and thankfully less common, reaction can be anaphylactic. This is a life threatening reaction that needs immediate medical attention. You will know when you are having this severe reaction if your face, eyes, throat, and/or tongue begin to swell, and you are having trouble breathing.
There are certain fruits that are related to latex. If you have an allergy to any of these, you may be allergic to latex. On the flip side, if you are allergic to latex, you should avoid these foods. Common culprits include avocados, bananas, kiwi, certain nuts, and papayas.
The most important thing to do if you have a latex allergy is to avoid latex. This is much harder than it sounds, because latex is everywhere. When you see a doctor or must visit a hospital or dentist, it is extremely important to let someone know you are allergic to latex and alternative gloves and medical instruments are needed.
Always carry your medications (if you have any) with you. A medical bracelet that states you have a latex allergy is essential. You may not be able to tell someone you are having a reaction, or you may be incapacitated in an accident, and unable to speak. Medical professionals know to look for a bracelet when treating a patient.
Latex is everywhere, but with a little care, your life does not have to be limited. It’s always a good idea to make friends and family aware of your allergy and let them know what to do if you appear to be having a reaction. Your doctor is your best source for information and should be the first person you consult if you fear you have developed a latex allergy.