What to Know About Latex Allergies

Michelle C. Brooten-Brooks is a licensed marriage and family therapist, health reporter and medical writer with over twenty years of experience in journalism. Her feature writing and health reporting have appeared in numerous newspapers across the country.

Learn about our editorial processPublished on October 19, 2021Medically reviewedVerywell Health articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.byCorinne Savides Happel, MD Medically reviewed byCorinne Savides Happel, MD

Corinne Savides Happel, MD, is a board-certified allergist and immunologist with a focus on allergic skin disorders, asthma, and other immune disorders.

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Latex, or natural rubber latex, is a common ingredient in many products people use on a daily basis, including gloves, pacifiers, balloons, athletic shoes, and even condoms. It's nearly impossible to avoid latex, as 12 million tons are produced every year, and over 40,000 consumer products contain latex.

For people sensitive to latex, their immune system has a hypersensitive allergic response to the proteins naturally occurring in the sap used to make latex. A latex allergy reaction can be as mild as a rash and stuffy nose or as life-threatening as anaphylaxis.

What Causes a Latex Allergy?

In the late 1980s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended universal precautions to protect healthcare workers from blood-borne pathogens. As a result, the use of latex-based medical supplies and gloves, which provide barrier protection, increased significantly. A rise in latex allergies followed.

Allergies are an abnormal response of the immune system against substances called allergens. Latex is an allergen, and regular contact with latex can cause allergies. This puts healthcare workers and patients who undergo multiple medical procedures at high risk because many medical supplies contain the material, including surgical and exam gloves, medical catheters and tubing, elastic bandages and wraps, and even stethoscopes.

Worldwide, the prevalence of latex allergy is 9.7% among healthcare workers and 4.3% among the general population.

People born with spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spine does not properly develop, have up to a 73% risk of latex allergy because of frequent exposure to latex from medical procedures and surgeries.

There are three main types of latex allergies:


People who are highly allergic to latex can have a severe or life-threatening allergic reaction from even a small amount of exposure. For the highly sensitive, a festive room full of latex balloons can be enough to trigger a reaction from latex particles in the air.

What to Know About Latex Allergies

Some common latex allergy symptoms include:

More severe allergy symptoms include:

Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction which requires immediate emergency medical attention. Anaphylaxis causes the throat to swell, which obstructs a person's airways, making breathing difficult. For severe allergies, a person should carry an injectable epinephrine device (EpiPen) at all times.

Causes and Risk Factors of Anaphylaxis

Common Products With Latex

It can be difficult to identify all products that contain latex, and, unfortunately, there's a lack of latex-free alternatives for many products. Some alternatives to latex include vinyl, silicone, and plastic.

Common household products that may contain latex include:

Medical items that may include latex include:

Exposure to Latex Paint When You Have an Allergy

Between 21% and 58% of people with latex allergies are affected by cross-activity between certain foods that share a similar protein with the rubber tree sap that makes latex.

People with latex allergies may experience reactions to these foods, particularly fruits and nuts. Some foods that may cause an allergic reaction in people with latex allergy include:

Jackfruit, a tropical tree fruit known as the world's largest fruit, is increasingly popular because of its versatility. Inside the green, bumpy rind is a stringy, sticky, rubbery, almost latex-like fruit. There are reported instances of people with latex allergy having consumed jackfruit and then experiencing an anaphylactic reaction. If you have a latex allergy, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you should avoid jackfruit.


The main treatment for a latex allergy is to avoid latex.

Common latex products can be manufactured using alternatives to latex items, such as vinyl, silicone, and plastic. Glove products can include nitrile and vinyl gloves. Mylar balloons can be used in place of latex balloons. Silicone and vinyl can be good substitutes for many items such as pacifiers.

Patients with life-threatening allergic reactions to latex should obtain and carry an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) with them at all times for use in the event of anaphylaxis.

Treatment for mild latex allergy symptoms include antihistamines and hydrocortisone cream. Nasal steroids and decongestants are not typically needed.

How Allergies Are Treated

A Word From Verywell

Allergies, especially severe and life-threatening allergies, can impact a person's quality of life. Latex allergies can be particularly challenging to manage because latex is an ingredient in so many products. If you notice symptoms of a latex allergy, talk to your healthcare provider about being diagnosed and treated for allergies.

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