Latex allergies

What are latex allergies?

There are three different possible reactions to latex you may get, only one of which is a true allergy. This true allergy is a Type I hypersensitivity, and is caused by latex coming into contact with IgE (a chemical in the blood), which then triggers a type of white blood cell known as a mast cell to release histamine. This causes allergic symptoms such as anaphylaxis, difficulty in breathing, hives (urticarai), or facial, tongue, and throat swelling. This is more serious as it can cause anaphylaxis, which is life threatening, however, it is also rarer than the other two types of latex sensitivity. It is possible to have used latex gloves for years, but only to develop a reaction recently. The signs and symptoms a Type I hypersensitivity reaction to latex start 30 – 60 minutes after exposure to latex.

Another type is an allergic contact dermatitis caused by latex. This is a Type IV hypersensitivity reaction, and is caused by white blood cells rather than chemicals in your blood. This can be caused by chemicals in the latex or chemicals which were used to process latex. This will cause a skin rash up to 2 days after you were exposed to latex, and the skin rash can consist of raised bumps (papules) or blisters, it might be reddened, itchy, or have a burning sensation associated with it.

A third type of reaction to latex is irritant contact dermatitis. This produced dry, flaky, red, and itchy after being exposed to latex. It has a gradual onset and can take days to develop. Frequent hand washing, and not drying hands properly, as well as using hand sanitisers a lot can make this worse.

This article will refer to all three types of latex sensitivity collectively as a “latex allergy” or “latex sensitivity.”

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