In a latex allergy, the immune system identifies latex as a harmful substance due to some reacting to certain proteins found naturally in latex. Like any allergy, its severity can increase with additional exposure to the irritants over time and can lead to the overwhelming of a body’s immune system.
There are two general categories of allergies to latex. The first is not life threatening and its symptoms are active 12 to 36 hours after contact. Urticaria, or an itchy skin rash, can result from repeated skin contact with latex and is often the result of sensitization to chemicals that were added during the latex rubber processing.
The second type of allergy is immediate and can be very dangerous. This is often referred to as an IgE antibody mediated allergic reaction and can result in anaphylactic shock in which the patient’s blood pressure plummets, accompanied with swelling, an irregular heartbeat and difficulty breathing.
If you suspect you may have a latex allergy these are the symptoms you may look for:
Airborne Latex Allergy Symptoms: Individuals may experience an allergic reaction similar to hay fever when repeatedly exposed to airborne latex particles such as those commonly released with the use of powdered gloves. Symptoms include coughing, stuffy nose, itchy and watery eyes, a rash or hives and difficulty breathing.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis Symptoms: This is very different from irritant contact dermatitis which causes skin to become red and cracked, a common enough occurrence among regular glove wearers. Allergic contact dermatitis is an actual allergic response to the latex proteins in the gloves or other residual chemicals used in the manufacturing process. A skin rash may appear within 24 to 48 hours after contact and can spread to areas of the body beyond the hands. The rash may turn to weeping blisters.
Anaphylactic Shock Symptoms: This is the 9-1-1 of latex allergy responses because it is potentially fatal. The reaction is immediate upon latex exposure and causes constriction of airways and breathing difficulty. Dizziness and a radical drop in blood pressure can cause loss of consciousness. Wheezing, speech difficulties, confusion, rapid or weak pulse, bluish skin color, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea are other indicators of anaphylactic shock.