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Latex Allergy and Food Cross-Reactivity

Latex allergy is an immediate hypersensitivity reaction to the proteins in natural rubber latex made from the sap of the Brazilian rubber tree.


Some of the everyday latex products that can harm your skin are balloons, rubber bands, condoms, rubber balls, bath mats, toys, erasers, and bandages. Rubber gloves and latex medical supplies – from catheters to sanitary napkins to blood-pressure monitoring cuffs – are the main culprits of allergic reactions.


This allergy is most occurring among healthcare workers and people who have had regular surgical procedures (especially in children with spina bifida.) But no one is out of the woods.


There are three types of latex sensitivity:


1. Irritant contact dermatitis. It is the most common type of reaction, but it is not an allergy. Burning, itchy rash appears where chemicals in latex have had contact with the skin, typically on the individual’s hands after using gloves. The reaction usually develops in the first 12 hours after contact. Contact dermatitis can be a precursor of latex allergy.


2. Allergic contact dermatitis. This type of reaction occurs as an allergic response to the chemical additives and not to the latex itself. It results in the same symptoms as non-allergic irritant contact dermatitis, but the symptoms are more acute, last longer and can spread to more parts of the body. The reaction is delayed and can take up to 24 hours to occur.


3. Hypersensitivity immune system reaction. This is a true allergy to natural rubber latex proteins with a severe immediate reaction that can be life-threatening. It can result from direct contact with the latex as well as its airborne particles. The symptoms vary. Mild episodes include sneezing, runny nose, irritated itchy eyes, hives, swollen or tight skin, and abdominal problems. Other reactions can be more life-threatening and include chest pain, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and low blood pressure. Hypersensitivity reaction usually occurs immediately after contact with the allergen.


High-risk individuals to develop latex allergy are:


  • Healthcare workers

  • People who have had numerous surgical procedures, including children with spina bifida

  • People with bone marrow disease, eczema, asthma, and any other type of allergy

  • People who work in rubber or car tire industries


Certain foods can cause a latex-like allergic reaction in some sensitive individuals, the syndrome is known as Latex-Fruit Syndrome. The immune system mistakes the proteins found in some fruits and vegetables for the actual proteins in natural tree sap and releases IgE antibodies.


Cross-reactivity can happen in approximately 50-70% of all people allergic to latex. These reactive foods include apple, avocado, banana, bell pepper, carrot, celery, chestnut, fig, kiwi, melon, papaya, peach, tomato, and white potato. If you’re sensitive to latex, you should be careful eating these foods.


The allergic reaction is usually mild and brief, causing minor symptoms of swelling, itching or tingling of the lips, mouth or throat. Symptoms occur almost instantly after eating certain foods. Once you swallow the food, the symptoms usually resolve within a few minutes.


Tell your doctor and dentist, If you are allergic to any of these foods. They can make sure not to use latex medical supplies when treating you.

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