Latex Allergy

Many people report having a latex allergy. However, there are two different kinds of latex allergy and they are extremely different. It is very important to know the difference between the two types, so you understand how to manage the condition and different avoidance measures that need to be taken.

The first kind is IgE-mediated latex allergy, which is an allergic reaction that is caused by natural rubber latex. This type of allergy causes immediate itching, hives, swelling, throat tightness, difficulty breathing, and in severe cases can progress to anaphylactic shock. This type of latex allergy is potentially life-threatening (although fatal reactions are extremely rare) and requires strict avoidance of latex and a person who is allergic to carry an epinephrine auto-injector, such as an Epi-Pen or Auvi-Q. This type of allergy can be diagnosed with skin prick testing or blood testing.  Many people with latex allergy have to avoid certain foods as well that share similar features to latex proteins and can cause similar symptoms.

The second kind of latex allergy is much more common, and is an allergic contact dermatitis to latex or other similar components found in rubber products. This type of allergy causes a delayed (usually 48 hours or longer) reaction of eczema on the skin. It can cause severe itching, rash, blistering of skin and can be severe, but it is not life-threatening. People with this problem do not have to carry an epinephrine auto-injector or worry about certain foods causing symptoms. This type of allergy is diagnosed via chemical patch testing, which enables allergists to determine what specific type of allergen you are allergic to.

Both types of latex allergy are most common in healthcare or dental workers, and those who work in occupations with a lot of rubber or latex exposure.  There is a lot of confusion about latex allergy, and it is important to know the difference between the two so you get the right instructions and information on how to manage your condition. Many people are concerned they have a life-threatening latex allergy, when they really have a contact dermatitis allergy, which can alleviate a lot of anxiety about reactions. If you suspect you have an allergy to latex, you can talk to your allergist who will take a thorough history and decide what type of testing and management will be best for you!