Fact Sheet: Latex Allergy
as been manufactured from the sap of the rubber tree. It is used in many common items. Rubber
be made from either natural rubber latex or synthetic materials such as synthetic rubber. As natural
cannot be identified visually, it is important to check the label.
A latex allergy is an allergy to products made from natural rubber latex. In particular
it is the proteins originating from the rubber tree and still present in the products,
which cause the allergy.
As products made from natural rubber latex also usually contain many other
chemicals, people not allergic to the natural latex itself, may find that they are
allergic to the chemicals found in these products.
How can this affect people with spina bifida?
It is well known that many people with spina bifida have an allergy to latex. Some
studies indicate that as many as 40% of children with spina bifida are affected.
Researchers suggest that latex allergy is due to intense and frequent exposure to
latex products such as gloves used in multiple surgeries, diagnostic tests,
examinations and bladder and bowel programs early in the child’s life.
What symptoms will I notice?
Latex allergy quite often presents first as a rash, but may also show itself as a hay
fever type reaction such as itchy eyes, swollen eyes, runny nose, and sneezing. Some
people may also develop asthma symptoms such as chest tightness, wheezing,
coughing and shortness of breath.
Evidence shows that the more a person is exposed to latex, the greater the allergic
reaction may become. An allergy to latex may also develop in a person who was
previously not allergic. The best thing to do is to minimise exposure the person has to
Although it is uncommon, some people who are allergic to latex can suffer a
potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylactic shock. This occurs within
minutes of exposure and may be fatal if not promptly treated by an adrenalin
injection. Anaphylactic shock is characterised by generalised hives, breathing
difficulties and low blood pressure. It is most likely to occur during direct tissue
contact with natural rubber latex products.
The best way to know if you have a latex allergy is to be tested by a specialist. This is
done by a skin prick test and is a safe way to identify potentially allergic people.
Is there any treatment?
No, currently medications are only available to temporarily alleviate symptoms, but
will not cure. The best ‘treatment’ therefore, is to avoid exposure to latex.
Easy precautions to remember!
Avoid contact with natural rubber latex products. Substitutes are
available for most commonly used items.
Let your doctor, surgeon or dentist know about your allergy before your
appointment. If you can be scheduled first this will again minimise the
risk of exposure to airborne particles.
Check your place of work or school. Let them know so they can replace
equipment and products used with non-latex substitutes.
Consult your doctor about medicine you can take to reduce the allergy
Be aware that some people who are allergic to latex also show allergies
to certain foods, especially bananas and avocados.
Remember: Medical Alert bracelets are available if required.
Source: the Spina Bifida Association of Queensland