Latex Allergy and Its Relation to Oral Allergy Syndrome and Food Allergies

By Heather Legg

If you are getting ready to go in and have surgery, be ready for a barrage of questions from a slew of doctors, especially anesthesiologists. One thing they’re really looking for is any allergy to latex. The interesting thing is they won’t just ask about latex and band aids; they also want to know about any food allergies, especially bananas, avocados, kiwis and chestnuts.

The Connection Between Latex and Certain Foods:
For people with any of these food allergies, even oral allergy syndrome, they need to watch out for a latex allergy. Often with oral allergy syndrome, we don’t think as much about the reactions or the foods as it’s not as life threatening as a true allergy with anaphylactic reactions. However, even a food sensitivity or oral allergy syndrome to the above listed foods can be a red flag of a latex allergy, and a latex allergy has the potential to lead to an anaphylactic reaction. Latex is made from the sap of commercially grown rubber trees with other chemicals added and many of the foods related to it mimic the latex protein as they break down in the body, hence the connection.

Exposure and Symptoms:
With latex gloves, cornstarch powder is added to prevent stickiness and give a smooth feel. The problem here is that the latex proteins will stick to the cornstarch particles. In places like operating rooms and other high exposure areas, there can be a lot of latex particles in the air, and this is dangerous for someone with a severe latex allergy.

For many people with this allergy, their main symptoms are mild rashes that may come even a day after contact. Others have a more immediate reaction with hives and itching upon contact, while people with a severe reaction can go in to anaphylaxis when exposed to contact, though it is rare.

What You Can Do:
There is a correlation between the severity of the latex reaction and food allergies, being that those with a more severe allergy to latex will have a more severe reaction to those certain foods. If you notice that any of the above listed foods, plus some others (see sources), give you a reaction, let a doctor know before any type of surgery. Coordinate your procedure with the hospital and they can take precautions to make sure the operating room is safe for you with thorough cleaning and latex free supplies. Often they can schedule you for the first surgery of the day to avoid contamination and follow other protocol to ensure a latex free environment.

Let your other doctors and dentists know, too. There are gloves that are latex free and other gloves that do not have the powder. If you think you may have a latex allergy because of a reaction to a band aid or condom, you can have a skin test done. The same goes for if you have an allergy to any of the common fruits associated with latex allergy; you can be tested just to know one way or the other. Many health care workers actually develop an allergy to latex because they are exposed to latex repeatedly. They can try switching to the non powdered gloves as this has been shown to decrease the allergy.

Anytime you are gearing up for surgery it can be stressful, especially when you are asked all of those questions and told the risks. Knowing whether you are at risk for a latex reaction will help quell the fears a little, and if you are, appropriate precautions can be put in place so the surgery can be as safe as possible.

Sources:
http://allergies.about.com/od/medicationallergies/a/latexallergy.htm
http://allergies.about.com/od/medicationallergies/a/latexfood.htm
http://www.aafp.org/afp/980101ap/reddy.html
http://www.webmd.com/allergies/guide/latex-allergies

1 Comment »

Donnie:

I’m not allergic to latex, but I am deathly allergic to the cornstarch that is used to powder latex and other kinds of gloves. I’m allergic to the sulfites in cornstarch, as well as the corn. My doctor, and dentist use powder-free gloves for me.

April 13th, 2012 | 10:00 am
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