We get calls occasionally from people who have had an allergic reaction to latex and didn’t know they had this allergy. Our lubricants have been on the market for over thirty years. Hundreds of thousands of people have used them with no significant negative reaction to any of them. They have undergone considerable laboratory testing to insure their safety and we have been told countless times that our products are the gentlest and most effective available. We will get the occasional report of a mild case of “contact dermatitis” which is just another word for a slight rash. If this occurs as a result of using any of our products we suggest that you discontinue its use. None of our products contain latex of any kind, but our lubes are sometimes used in conjunction with a latex condom. Latex is known to cause adverse allergic reactions in approximately four percent of the population in the United States. Some of these individuals need only have very minimal contact with latex to experience an allergic reaction. We are not doctors and do not give medical advice, but we would like to pass on the information we have gathered on this topic to those who are interested.
What Causes a Latex Allergy?
Natural rubber latex comes from the milky sap of tropical rubber trees and although the exact cause of a latex allergy is unknown there is some speculation that proteins in the latex or in the liquids that are used in the processing of latex may be the cause of some allergic reactions. This protein is absorbed into a person’s blood stream through the direct contact of latex to the skin or mucosal membranes. An allergy to latex may develop over time, so even if a person has used latex in the past without an adverse reaction this doesn’t mean they won’t experience them later in life.
Most condoms are made with latex or are dipped in latex. Latex is used to make many of the following rubber products besides condoms:
- Waistbands on clothing
- Rubber toys
- Pacifiers and baby-bottle nipples
- Rubber bands
- Adhesive tape and bandages
- Diapers and sanitary pads
In addition, many medical and dental supplies contain latex, including gloves, blood pressure cuffs, urinary catheters, dental dams and material used to fill root canals, as well as tourniquets and equipment for resuscitation. Non-latex substitutes can be found for all of these latex-containing items. Condoms are also made using Poly-urethane instead of latex. They tend to be slightly less effective as they are less elastic.
Latex allergy symptoms are usually mild with symptoms such as:
- Itchy, red, swollen, watery eyes
- Runny nose and/or sneezing
- Hives or other rash like symptoms
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
On rare occasions a person who is highly allergic to latex can have a life-threatening reaction, called anaphylactic shock. Symptoms may include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Throat constrictions
- Rapid or weak pulse
- Loss of consciousness
It is rare for an individual to have a serious anaphylatic reation to latex, but if one occurs it is extremely important to get immediate medical assistance.
Is there a connection between latex allergy and foods?
Because some proteins in rubber are similar to food proteins, some foods may cause a reaction in people who are allergic to latex. Fruits (and seeds) involved in this syndrome include banana, pineapple,avocado, chestnut, kiwi fruit, mango, passionfruit, strawberry, and soy. Some but not all of these fruits contain latex.
What should I do if I think I have a latex allergy?
See a doctor, preferably one with experience in treating latex allergy. Your doctor will take a detailed history and may confirm the diagnosis with a blood test. Skin testing is usually not used to test for latex allergy, except in some specialized centers.
Although there is no treatment for latex allergy, you can reduce your risk of reaction by avoiding direct contact with latex. As mentioned earlier, use nonlatex condoms. If you’re allergic to latex, consider using polyurethane or lambskin condoms, or use another type of birth control. However, keep in mind that condoms made of these alternative products don’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases as well as latex condoms do. Read the label on the package to see what the condom is made of and whether it’s labeled for disease prevention.
If you know you are subject to extreme reactions to latex always wear or carry a medical alert bracelet, necklace or keychain that warns emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and doctors that you are allergic to latex.