HealthSheets™


When Your Child Has a Latex Allergy

An allergy is an extreme sensitivity to a certain substance (allergen). Your child has a latex allergy if he or she is sensitive to natural rubber latex. This allergy is a common problem for children who need repeated surgeries or medical procedures. Children with spina bifida are even more at risk of having a latex allergy. If your child has a latex allergy, the best way to prevent symptoms is to keep them away from latex. Follow the tips on this sheet and any instructions from your child’s healthcare provider.

What is latex?

Natural rubber latex is made from a liquid taken from the rubber tree. Latex can be found in many items including:

  • Latex surgical gloves  

  • Dishwashing gloves

  • Balloons

  • Rubber bands

  • Rubber balls

  • Pacifiers

  • Baby bottle nipples

  • Diapers

  • Adhesive strips (used to cover cuts and scrapes)

  • Elastic in underpants

  • Erasers

  • Toys

Some latex items, such as gloves, may be lined with powder. This powder can carry latex particles into the air. This can cause problems if your child breathes air containing the powder.

Should my child stay away from any foods?

Your child should not automatically stay away from any foods due to their latex allergy. But some people with latex allergy can also have reactions to 1 or more of the following foods. It's not advised to keep your child away from foods they already eat and tolerate. Testing for foods your child has never eaten may be an option. This may be the case if you or your child is anxious about trying these foods. Talk with your child's allergist or healthcare provider.

Foods that may have a higher link to latex allergy include fruits and nuts such as:

  • Banana

  • Avocado

  • Kiwi fruit

  • Chestnut

  • Apple

  • Carrot

  • Celery

  • Melon

  • Papaya

  • Potato

  • Tomato

How does a latex allergy develop?

  • Latex protein is the allergen that causes a latex allergy. The more exposure your child has to latex protein, the more likely that an allergy will develop.

  • Foods such as those listed above have proteins a lot like those in natural rubber latex. An allergy to these foods may make a child more likely to have a latex allergy.

What are the symptoms of a latex allergy?

If the latex protein touches the skin, your child may have a skin (local) reaction. If the latex protein gets into the lungs or touches the lips, mouth, eyes, or bloodstream, your child may have a whole body (systemic) reaction. These symptoms can include:

  • Itchy eyes, nose, mouth

  • Sore throat or hoarseness

  • Stuffy or runny nose, sneezing

  • Itchy or red skin, hives, swelling

  • Wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, trouble breathing

  • Upset stomach (nausea), vomiting, cramping, or diarrhea

  • Headache

  • Life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock (see the box below for more information)

How is a latex allergy diagnosed?

Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will do a physical exam. Tests may also be done. These may include a skin prick test or a blood test. Your child’s provider will tell you more about these tests if they are needed.

What is the treatment for a latex allergy?

There is no cure for a latex allergy. But you can take steps to prevent your child from exposure to latex.

  • Tell others about your child’s latex allergy. Have your child wear a medical identification (ID) bracelet. This lets healthcare providers know that they should not use latex when caring for your child. Call your child’s healthcare providers. This includes the dentist and school or daycare nurse. Have them note in your child’s file that your child has a latex allergy.

  • Carry an allergy kit. This should include:

    • Injectable epinephrine. This medicine can stop an allergic reaction. Your child’s healthcare provider will give you a prescription for it.

    • Nonlatex surgical gloves. You can wear these. Or others can wear them if they must care for your child.

    • A note from your child’s healthcare provider. This should state that your child has a latex allergy.

    • Medicine list. This should include all the medicines your child takes.

  • Be aware of latex in everyday life. Carefully read labels. Ask your child’s provider for more information and resources about your child’s latex allergy. Ask the provider if your child needs to stay away from foods that have proteins similar to latex. Ask at restaurants and at your child’s school if latex gloves are used to handle or prepare food.

  • Substitutes for latex. Nonlatex (synthetic) surgical gloves can be used. Mylar balloons are a safe substitute for rubber or latex balloons. Other substitutions include plastic feeding nipples and pacifiers, plastic hairbrushes, and cloth or plastic toys that are latex free.

  • Educate your child, family, and friends. Let them know when and how to use your child’s epinephrine. Also let them know when to call911for emergency help.

When to seek emergency care

Know the signs of shock.

Anaphylactic shock is a rare but life-threatening allergic reaction. If your child has signs of shock, use the epinephrine right away. Then call 911. The signs of anaphylactic shock include:

  • Swelling of the eyes, lips, tongue

  • Wheezing, throat tightness, unable to breathe

  • Coughing

  • Facial flushing

  • Fast, pounding heartbeat or chest tightness

  • Feeling faint, loss of consciousness

  • Belly pain or cramps

  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

  • Feeling of doom

To learn more

For more information, try this resource:

  • American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, www.aaaai.org

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