Today, latex allergy is quite rare: it is estimated that around less than 1% of French people are affected. People who work in the medical world are the most at risk. It has also been observed that this allergy is sometimes crossed with others, such as allergy to fruits or to cannabis… Investigation of allergic reactions to latex.
What is latex?
“The latex comes from the rubber tree, a tree native to the Amazon rainforest, explains Dr. Chabane, allergist. It is used to protect the tree from injury. The tree heals by creating this liquid substance which coagulates in the air. It is from this latex that we obtain the rubber which is used to make car tires, industrial seals, etc. When we talk about condoms or latex gloves, we are talking about natural latex to which we addedammonia to prevent clotting. These items are made by soaking shapes in a latex bath. ”
Where does the latex allergy come from?
We must differentiate two types of allergic reactionss, completely opposed clinically, specifies the specialist:
- the oldest known is theallergy the contact (eczema) with latex additives,
- since the 1980s, theimmediate allergy to latex proteins. The latter is also the most serious.
Since Dr. Nutter’s description of immediate allergy in 1979, latex protein allergy has seen a dramatic increase during the 1980s. This coincides with the epidemic of AIDS and hepatitis B. Indeed, to fight against the spread of these diseases, the WHO (World Health Organization) encouraged in particular the wearing of disposable gloves. Consumption was therefore multiplied and it was necessary to produce faster and at lower costs. Thus, Malaysia supplied 80% of the world production of gloves.
With the elimination of the washing steps, the latex products were richer in residual protein. In addition, the use of single-use powdered latex gloves disseminated volatile particles into the air which was responsible for theincreased immediate latex allergy. The cases were developing, in particular in the hospital environment where latex is present everywhere: gloves, rubber mask, probes, etc. But we have also spotted cases in other spaces where latex is present, such as sports stores.
Notable improvements since the end of the 90s
L’improvement of manufacturing methods (washed gloves and condoms low in latex proteins and nitrile substitutes (blue gloves), silicone and neoprene (masks, probes), polyurethane (condoms), etc.) resulted in a drastic reduction of this allergy, manufactured by the man of all parts.
A cross allergy with certain foods and cannabis!
As the allergist points out, “it was found that, among people who became allergic to latex proteins, some developed a cross-allergy with fruits: banana, avocado, kiwi, melon, chestnut. But also with cannabis… ”
What are the symptoms of a latex allergy?
Different symptoms, skin or respiratory, local or general, can be caused by an allergy to latex:
- a immediate reaction in contact with latex by a urticaria on the hands (gloves) or on the genitals (condoms);
- generalized hives after contact with latex objects;
- angioedema (subcutaneous edema);
- rhinitis and / or conjunctivitis (nasal congestion, sneezing, watery eyes, etc.);
- asthma (difficulty in breathing, feeling like you don’t have enough air);
- anaphylactic shock or anaphylaxis (this reaction is serious and constitutes a medical emergency).
“If we present the symptoms aroused, we will then look for situations of potential exposure to latex or populations at risk (namely medical personnel, multi-operated patients, people with allergies, children with congenital malformations requiring multiple surgeries). Think about it if you have food allergies to certain fruits. The diagnosis will be made with skin tests by an allergist or with a blood test, ”explains the allergist.
Can it be treated? What to do if you are allergic to latex?
There is no no desensitization treatment to this allergy. However, the person can avoid contact with latex objects and take an antihistamine if they have mild symptoms.
In the event of a confirmed allergy, the patient must report their condition to the medical staff in order to avoid exposure to latex during treatment (dentist, medical examinations, surgery, etc.). A latex allergy card is also given to the patient. It is used to inform the nursing staff in the event of a public highway accident (otherwise a doctor and in particular a surgeon will use latex gloves).
An emergency kit with auto-injectable epinephrine may also be considered for more serious cases.
- No problem with condoms! Today there are condomslatex free, like Durex Nude or Skyn Elite (polyisoprene) and others. Note also that female condoms do not contain latex.
- Ditto for sextoys which are, for the most part, silicone, like the Velve Macy Vibrator Magic Wand from Sinful or in ecological materials such as the Womanizer Premium Eco (Biolene).
- For the gloves, there are still solutions, like those in nitrile mentioned above.