Latex is a substance(sap) extracted from the rubber tree from which many products like natural rubber, some clothing or gloves are made. Some people are allergic to the protein present in the latex and develop some signs and symptoms like itchy rashes, watery eyes after using the products made from it. People are more worried from this allergy because sometimes it can cause life threatening anaphylactic shock which requires immediate treatment.
The prevalence rate of latex allergy is highly variable as some group of people like industry or healthcare workers are more affected from it, as compared to the general population.
The signs and symptoms occurring after exposure to latex are the general allergic symptoms which develop immediately or within a few hours like
Rarely occurring anaphylactic shock: Less common and life-threatening symptom. This is a whole-body response in an allergic person to an allergen, here it is latex. It is life threatening emergency and requires immediate treatment. Anaphylactic signs and symptoms include
If the anaphylaxis is not treated in time the person can die due to suffocation. It is important to discuss the symptoms with your health professionals, though sometimes they are mild but next time they can be lethal. So, you need to be prepared.
Allergy occurs because the immune system of your body overreacts to some foreign things, here it is latex proteins, which are otherwise harmless. The immune system starts forming chemicals and antibodies against it. The most common chemical is histamine which results in some of the signs and symptoms that you are worried about. Every time you get exposed to the latex particles, the preformed antibodies tell your immune system cells to release more and more histamine. Only those latex materials which are obtained naturally have been known to cause the allergy. The artificial or man-made synthetic latex is not known to be cause allergic reaction
Exposure to latex can occur by the following ways:
As you already know that not all people develop allergy to latex but studies show that people with some known factors have greater chances of having latex allergy like
Rubber industry: The people working in the rubber industry are more exposed to the latex materials than general population and repeated exposure increases the chances of allergic reaction.
Spina bifida: spina bifida is a birth defect related to the abnormal development of the spine and the people suffering from this are at the highest risk of developing the allergy because they were exposed to the medical latex products early in their life.
Family history: people who have one or more of their relatives suffering from latex or other allergies are at increased risk of having latex allergy
Health care workers: They are constantly in touch with the materials like tubes or gloves made from latex. So, they are at always are at a higher risk.
Your doctor uses your past medical history, family history or can perform certain test to make out the diagnosis
History: your doctor will ask you certain questions about your symptoms and relation of these signs with the objects and substances you may have encountered in the past days because there are chances that you can have allergy to any other thing in the environment.
Elimination test: If it is suspected that you can be allergic to one or more of the environmental material then your doctor can advise to keep some distance from these things, one at a time and then observing the signs and symptoms. It will help your doctor to identify the substance for which you are allergic.
Skin Prick test (SPT): it is used to test whether you are allergic to a substance or not by introducing small amount of allergen in the skin. Here your doctor will keep small amount of latex protein on the skin and prick it with the needle so that some amount of it get introduced in the skin. If you are allergic to egg then a reaction will be there, a raised bump can be seen.
Blood test: Your blood is used to check the response of your immune system towards particular antigen by measuring the levels of allergy specific antibodies that is levels of IgE antibodies.
Latex allergy cannot be treated but it can be managed and chances of serious reactions can be decreased in future by avoiding the use and contact with the latex materials
Medications: Medications such as antihistamines can only be used to reduce the mild symptoms of the allergic reaction but for serious reactions antihistamines are not helpful.
Epinephrine injection for the anaphylactic shock: in despite of all the preventive measures, sometimes patient can accidentally be exposed to the allergen and sometimes anaphylactic shock can be there which requires administration of epinephrine in the body. It is advised that all patients should buy an epinephrine self-injector
Preventive measures: You should strictly avoid using the latex products such as
Today many health care facilities use non-latex gloves but you must tell your doctor about your allergy because the other medical stuffs can still contain latex materials