COULD I BE ALLERGIC TO THESE SHINY THINGS?
This document is for informational purposes only. We do not claim to be allergy experts, medical professionals, or lawyers. Should you have any questions about latex allergies – especially those related to your own potential risk factors – please seek qualified medical advice (referring to this document does not constitute qualified medical advice, and we also wouldn’t recommend trusting “facts” you find on the first website you Google or advice from some random bloke in a chatroom or message board).
If you feel you have an allergy to latex, seek qualified professional help.
Latex Allergy Definitions
Type I (immediate-type) hypersensitivity to Natural Rubber Latex Allergy (NRL) is an IgE-mediated, immediate-type hypersensitivity reaction to one or more proteins found in natural rubber latex (Hevea brasiliensis). The release of Histamine is what causes the symptoms, and this reaction is systemic.
Type IV (delayed-type) hypersensitivity is a T cell-mediated delayed response, and typically occurs 48 – 96 hours following exposure. Typically, this is a reaction to the processing chemicals used in the manufacturing of natural rubber latex (NRL) and not the latex itself. This reaction is generally localized to the area of contact, and is also often referred to as allergic contact dermatitis, T-cell-mediated allergy, or a chemical allergy.
Irritant Contact Dermatitis is a non-allergic reaction. Symptoms are typically dry, irritated, and/or fissured lesions. This is the most common reaction.
What are the symptoms of a latex allergy?
Signs of an allergic reaction to latex can be mild or severe. They can appear right after exposure to latex or up to a few hours later. You might not have symptoms the first time you come into contact with latex. Latex allergy symptoms include:
- Skin irritation: Itching, inflammation, redness and swelling appear after skin contact with latex. For example, you may have itchy lips after blowing up a balloon or vaginal irritation after having sex with a partner who used a latex condom.
- Rash: An itchy rash appears where the latex touched your skin. A latex allergy rash usually occurs within a day after exposure. The rash can spread if it touches skin on other parts of your body. But you can get a rash from other factors, such as using too much hand sanitizer or washing your hands too often.
- Hives, runny nose and sneezing: Itchy, watery eyes and inflammation around the nose and mouth are common. Eyes may become swollen and red.
- Trouble breathing: People who have severe allergic reactions may wheeze or have difficulty breathing. In severe cases, anaphylaxis may occur. Anaphylaxis can be fatal. If you or someone you know is having an allergic reaction and can’t breathe, call 911 or go to the emergency room.
Allergic contact dermatitis is a common immune reaction to latex
Allergic contact dermatitis is the most common immune system reaction to latex. The symptoms look similar to irritant dermatitis symptoms, but the cause is different. The rash is rough, dry and scaly, sometimes with weeping sores. It usually occurs 12-48 hours after contact with latex rubber. Contact allergic dermatitis is usually due to an inflammatory reaction to the chemicals added to rubber during manufacture. However, it may also result from contact with latex protein.
Contact allergic dermatitis is annoying but not dangerous. As with irritant dermatitis, treatment is recommended to reduce the risk of developing more serious immediate allergic reactions to latex.
Awareness and diagnosis are important first steps
If exposure to latex continues, the allergy symptoms may progress into a severe or even life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. If you are wearing latex for the first time and begin to experience any of the above symptoms,
1. remove the garment,
2. shower or bath, and
3. seek medical attention ASAP.
The current statistics for people with a sensitivity to natural rubber latex are broken down into risk groups, which are as follows: 8-17% of healthcare workers. Up to 68% of children with spina bifida (related to frequent surgeries – anyone who has multiple surgeries is at risk). Less than 1% of the general population in the U.S. (about 3 million people) Source
Am I at risk for a latex allergy?
There are some associated food allergies among other common material allergies. If you are allergic to any of the following foods – or have had a previous reaction to one – then you could be at a higher risk for a latex allergy.
High associative risk: Banana, Avocado, Chestnut, Kiwi
Moderate associative risk: Apple, Carrot, Celery, Papaya, Potato, Tomato, Melons
Literature Review on Latex-Food Cross-Reactivity 1991-2006
Allergic Cross Reactivity of Latex and Foods
“I’ve heard Chinese-Made latex is bad, harsh, smelly, going to turn my skin Technicolor, cause fire and brimstone to fall out of the sky or worse!”
This is somewhat of a FUD game to play on the internet for the well-meaning amusement of some folks. We can understand the human desire to assert certain things, and we’ve certainly read our fair share of stories that are likely true. However, there are also certain myths that we need to straighten out.
All latex products on the planet originate from just a few places. Regardless of the path they took to your door, the latex itself originated from Asia. The continent is the primary source of natural rubber, accounting for about 94% of its output in 2014
Top Five Natural Rubber Producers 2014:
Natural rubber is not cultivated widely in its native continent of South America due to the existence of South American leaf blight, among other natural predators of the rubber tree. South America is also home to the Pará rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) which is indigenous too.
These countries do not ship the trees out. Instead, they make the sheets that our industry uses.
To be fair, there are several boutique latex sheeting locations, but it is unlikely that the production shares the same type and style needed for Clothing or Garment applications.
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Latex Allergy. (https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/latex-allergy) Accessed 10/29/2020.
- American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Latex Allergy. (https://acaai.org/allergies/types/latex-allergy) Accessed 10/29/2020.
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Latex Allergy. (https://www.aafa.org/latex-allergy/) Accessed 10/29/2020.
- Merck Manual. Overview of Allergic Reactions. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/immune-disorders/allergic-reactions-and-other-hypersensitivity-disorders/overview-of-allergic-reactions) Accessed 10/29/2020.