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Latex allergy

What is latex?

Latex is the milky sap of the rubber tree. It is used to make rubber products such as balloons, balls and other toys, pacifiers, and many medical products.

Just as a person can be allergic to certain foods or medicines, a person can be allergic to latex rubber.

Who is likely to be affected by latex?

People are more likely to have (or to develop) a latex allergy if they have:

  • a reaction to balloons or rubber toys
  • spina bifida
  • genital or urinary tract defects
  • frequent surgeries
  • long or repeated hospital stays
  • many allergies
  • asthma
  • allergic rashes

Children with a history of allergies to avocados, bananas, celery, chestnuts, figs, kiwi, papaya, passion fruit, peaches, or potatoes may also be at risk for latex allergy.

Children at risk for latex allergy should avoid exposure to latex even if they have not had a reaction before. Frequent contact with latex, especially to the mucous membranes, open cuts, or wounds, will often trigger the allergy, or make an existing allergy worse. For these children, latex precautions are used in the hospital.

What products might cause a reaction?

Latex is found in many products. Listed below are some products to avoid, and some latex-free choices.

Contain latex Latex-free option
adhesive tape latex-free tape
crayons (some types) Crayolas®
elastic edges in clothing cloth or plastic edges on clothing
elastic edges on diapers cloth diapers, some brands of disposables
glue (many types) Elmer's® white glue
Koosh® balls latex-safe balls
rubber balls, toys plastic balls, toys
rubber balloons mylar balloons
rubber nipples and pacifiers silicone nipples and pacifiers

 

If you are unsure about a product, ask the manufacturer whether it contains latex.

What can I do to prevent exposure to latex?

If your child is allergic to latex, buy a medical alert bracelet that reads "allergy to latex." These are available at most drugstores.
Learn which products contain latex. Avoid them, and avoid items made of rubber or elastic as much as possible. In some rare cases, simply being in the same room with rubber products can cause a reaction.

Tell your child's school and child care staff about your child's need to avoid rubber products. Tell them what they can do if a reaction does occur. Be sure they have any medicines needed.

Carry non-latex gloves with you in case anyone needs to use them while caring for your child.

Is your child having surgery or any medical or dental procedure? When scheduling it, be sure to tell the staff about the allergy. Ask for the first appointment of the day to reduce exposure to latex particles in the air.

What are the signs of a reaction to latex?

Signs may vary from mild to life-threatening. Call the doctor if your child has any sign of allergic reaction:

  • skin rash or hives
  • red, itchy eyes
  • itchy skin
  • swelling
  • sneezing, coughing
  • wheezing
  • trouble breathing - call 911

What should I do if my child has a severe allergic reaction to latex?

If your child could have a severe reaction to latex, your doctor will want you to keep an epinephrine kit (pre-filled syringe) handy. Learn how to use it to be ready for emergencies. It must be given quickly for the best effect.

Give the epinephrine and call 911 if your child has:

  • trouble breathing.
  • swelling of the lips or tongue.
  • chest tightness.

Questions?

This sheet is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have questions, please ask the doctor. For more information about latex allergy or products containing latex, you may contact:

American Academy of Family Physicians website

American Latex Allergy Association
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
(AFFA), (202) 466-7643, extension 226
Elastic, Inc, (612) 475-0054

Spina Bifida Association of America
4590 MacArthur Blvd. NW, Suite 250
Washington DC 20007-4226 800-621-3141 

Last Reviewed 7/2015 © Copyright

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Family Resource Center library, or visit www.childrensmn.org/educationmaterials.

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