What are the signs and symptoms of a latex allergy?

The signs and symptoms of your latex allergy or sensitivity will depend on which type of latex allergy you have.

Signs and symptoms of a Type I hypersensitivity reaction to latex often include anaphylactic shock. During anaphylactic shock, all the blood vessels in your body become very wide, and so your blood pressure drops to dangerous levels. In addition, your airways narrow, and you may find it very difficult to breathe. Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include sweating, anxiety, terror, a dry mouth, a fast heart rate, a low blood pressure, a faint feeling or loss of consciousness, abdominal pain or diarrhoea, or swelling around the lips, tongue, face, and throat. Anaphylaxis is life threatening and needs urgent treatment with adrenaline, usually administered from an EpiPen.

Other, less serious signs and symptoms of a Type I hypersensitivity reaction to latex include hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, watery, irritated eyes, a blocked or runny nose, nausea, or vomiting.

Signs and symptoms of a Type IV hypersensitivity reaction mainly includes a skin rash where you have touched latex. This rash usually appears approximately 24 hours after you have touched the plant, and tends to vanish after 2 weeks. It does not leave any scars. In severe cases, this might cause blisters which are a few millimetres across and filled with fluid. There can also be swelling, raised bumps on the skin (papules), and redness. The rash can be extremely itchy or might have a burning sensation associated with it, and excessive scratching can damage the skin even more.

Signs and symptoms of irritant contact dermatitis include red, dry, flaky, itchy skin. Your skin might also have cracks and fissures, and it might appear scaly. These signs and symptoms can take a long time to appear, and can appear over days.

Some people with latex allergies can also become allergic to fruits. This is known as latex-fruit syndrome. It can commonly occur with bananas, kiwifruits, cherries, passion fruits, carrots, coconuts, celery, apples, nectarines, oranges, figs, peaches, avocado, mango, pineapples, strawberries, and soya beans, as well as a few others. Some of these fruits contain chemicals which are similar to those found in latex. Class 1 chitinase is a protein found in some of these fruits, part of which is structurally very similar to hevein, which is an allergen found in latex. Allergic reactions can also happen if you eat fruit which has rubbed against latex, or which has been prepared by people wearing latex gloves. 30 - 50 % of people who are allergic to latex are also thought to be allergic to fruits. Signs and symptoms of latex-fruit syndrome are those of any other food allergy, and include hives, facial, tongue, and throat swelling, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, difficulty in breathing, or anaphylactic shock.

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