Latex allergy develops after contact with latex. Latex, also known as natural rubber, comes from the sap of the rubber tree. Rubber gloves are the main source of sensitization development of hypersensitivity and allergic reactions to latex.
See related patient information handout on latex allergywritten by the author of this article. Related Editorial. Natural latex from the rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis is an allergen in persons with significant cumulative latex exposure, such as those in the health care and rubber industries, as well as those undergoing repeated surgeries, especially if they undergo surgeries early in life.
Contact with these products can cause an allergic reaction. Some people have allergic reactions by breathing in latex fibers in the air. Some people have allergic reactions from skin contact with latex.
Latex is a fluid that comes from the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis, found in Africa and Southeast Asia. Allergic reactions to products made with latex develop in people who become allergic or sensitized to proteins contained in natural rubber latex. At least 13 distinct proteins have been identified and associated with latex sensitivities. Products with natural rubber latex include some rubber gloves, condoms, and medical equipment such as catheters, breathing tubes, enema tips, and dental dams, among others.
The accurate diagnosis of a latex-allergic individual begins with a comprehensive clinical history. Atopy, food allergies, hand dermatitis, and temporal relationships between allergic symptoms and natural rubber product exposure are risk factors that increase the suspicion of latex allergy. If symptoms are temporally delayed hours-days and confined to skin-latex product contact areas, Type IV hypersensitivity should be suspected and patch testing may be performed to identify activated T cells that are specific for selected rubber chemical additives.
Methylisothiazolinone and the epidemic of allergic contact dermatitis. The term latex allergy refers to a hypersensitivity to products containing natural rubber latex. Individuals with true latex allergy have developed type I immediate hypersensitivity due to previous sensitization and production of immunoglobulin E antibodies.
The dramatic surge in the incidence of latex allergy in the s is believed to be related to increased use of latex gloves after the adoption of universal precautions and to manufacturing changes that might have exposed health care workers and patients to latex gloves with higher latex content. Recognition of latex allergy as a public health concern led to identification of populations at risk, defined clinical symptoms, and recommendations for evaluation and management. Manufacturers of medical and commercial products have responded by labeling latex products and by developing latex-free items.
Natural rubber latex comes from a liquid in tropical rubber trees. This liquid is processed to make many of the following rubber products used at home and at work:. This reaction can range from sneezing to anaphylactic shock.