Allergies are no fun, especially the ones related to food, for they can deprive you of palatable meals. Food allergy means that certain substances found in certain foods can damage your immune system, as it is pretty sensitive. Although many allergic reactions are most commonly mild, they can sometimes be fatal if you aren’t careful enough.
There are many types of food allergies, yet latex allergy remains unknown to many people, given its rarity among other food allergies. This allergy is caused by proteins but not just any kind of protein. It is the proteins found in rubber latex, a natural product that rubber trees produce.
Here’s all there is to know about this unfortunate allergy:
What is Latex Allergy?
Latex allergy is when your immune system overreacts to anything that contains rubber latex. Rubber latex is used to make things like condoms, rubber gloves, and other medical items. This means that a person with latex allergy may react to any of those items when coming in contact with them.
Inhaling the substance may also cause an allergic reaction since it contains cornstarch powder that makes it airborne. However, it’s not always an external reaction, for it can also be found in different kinds of food. 30% to 50% of people who are allergic to latex develop what is known as latex-fruit syndrome or latex-food allergy syndrome.
Latex-Fruit Syndrome/ Latex-Food Allergy Syndrome
Those with a history of latex allergy somehow develop an allergy to certain foods containing this specific latex protein. These foods include banana, tomato, apple, kiwi, bell pepper, avocado, papaya, fig, chestnut, carrots, raw potato, celery, melons, and peach.
As you can see, they are primarily fruits, and that’s why this ailment is commonly referred to as the latex-fruit syndrome. People who develop this allergy could experience stuffy noses, eyes allergy, wheezing, horsing, or a tingling feeling in their mouth when they eat any of these fruits.
Different Symptoms of Latex Allergy
Symptoms that show up when your body responds to latex can vary from one person to another. Some experience many symptoms at once, while others may only have a sign or two. Besides, the intensity of your body’s reaction can say a lot about your level of latex allergy. There are mild and severe symptoms, and then there are lethal ones that could threaten your life altogether.
Also, each additional exposure to latex can add up to your symptoms and worsen them. Getting acquainted with the different signs of latex allergy is essential so you know when to see a doctor.
Like every type of allergy, latex allergy comes with different intensity levels. It has mild symptoms that don’t form any threats to one’s life. Such symptoms include skin rash, leaving one quite itchy and may later turn into red patches that persist for some time.
If it is not the skin it affects, it reaches the respiratory system, causing coughs and persistent wheezing. Some people even experience a runny nose and repetitive sneezing. A more intensive level may include experiencing asthma and some difficulty in breathing that may require using a ventilator. That’s when you realise the allergy is getting more severe and you’d need to see a doctor.
Many people may experience symptoms that aggravate over time, making it quite dangerous that it could be life-threatening. Such symptoms include severe asthma and difficulty breathing that could also result from a blocked throat.
A sudden plunge in blood pressure could be another sign of debilitating latex allergy, leading to a weak pulse and loss of consciousness in some cases. If any of those symptoms show up, it is crucial to seek emergency help immediately. Those symptoms may worsen if your exposure to latex accumulates inside your body.
Who Are at More Risk of Developing Latex Allergy?
When someone is allergic to something, they are more likely born with this type of allergy. However, latex allergy is quite different; very few people are born with this allergy. Instead, people develop it later in life when they are exposed to latex more often. It is a pretty rare type of allergy, but it is more common among a specific group of people.
People born with spina bifida are among these groups who can develop an allergy to latex. Spina Bifida Occulta is a condition where the spine has some defects that can lead to further problems. It describes the presence of a small gap between the bones that line up the spine. Some people discover it only later in life when they experience back pains or leg weaknesses.
The relation between people with spina bifida and latex allergy is continuous exposure to the substance. People with this condition often undergo several surgeries, exposing them to medical rubber gloves. This brings us to the following group of people at risk of developing the allergy; those undergoing several surgeries.
Workers in the medical industry are also at risk, for they use tools laden with latex or continuously inhale it. Thus, they have a higher tendency to develop an allergy upon multiple exposures to the substance over the years. After the body accumulates latex in massive amounts and for a consistently long time, it starts reacting.
Successful Ways to Reduce the Risk of Latex Allergy
Although the percentage of people developing latex allergy is slim, it is still there. Your chances of developing an allergy to latex depend on many factors, including your immune system and how it reacts to the substance and the amount of exposure.
If you work in the medical industry, you are at a higher risk than others. The thing is, you cannot prevent developing the allergy entirely, but you can reduce the chances. Also, this allergy has no cure. Thus, your weapon is to avoid any latex-laden item to protect yourself. So, here are some tips to follow to kerb allergic reactions:
- Avoid using products that contain latex, such as condoms or gloves. If you must use any of them, then opt for latex-free options.
- Wear a face mask if you are commonly inhaled in a place where latex is common. Hospital rooms contain lots of latex in the air as medical providers constantly use them.
- If you happen to have a severe allergy to latex, carry an Epinephrine injection with you. This medicine helps ease the symptoms, including difficulty breathing or throat swelling.
- While in restaurants, don’t hesitate to request the cooking team to use latex-free gloves so you won’t get particles in your food and have a sudden reaction.
- Please read the labels on every item you use to ensure they don’t contain latex. Lots of elastic clothing and waterproof shoe-wear have latex.
- If you have children, ensure you don’t bring home toys with a high amount of latex. Also, balloons are among the items that could aggravate your latex allergy.
- Avoid consuming high amounts of food that contain latex. This could be anything from bananas, apples, avocados, kiwis, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, figs, melons, and papayas.
Latex allergy is rare, yet it can be fatal. We advise you to consult a professional if you have an allergic reaction. Also, make sure you use the help of an allergist if you are already diagnosed with the allergy. They will help to adjust some lifestyle habits that will make your life easier.