A latex allergy has as causes certain substances (so-called allergens) in natural latex (or natural rubber) or latex products that trigger a hypersensitivity reaction. Depending on which allergens it is possible to distinguish two different allergic reactions:
- For the allergic reaction of the immediate type (typeI) are proteins of the natural latex responsible, which cause the formation of specific IgE antibodies. These proteins are mostly residues from industrial production.
- The allergic reaction of late type (Type IV) is formed by additives added to the rubber milk in the latex production. These materials include vulcanization accelerators, antioxidants,vulcanizes, dyes and anti- aging agents. These allergens do not produce recognizable allergy symptoms after more than 12 hours – mediated by T lymphocytes.
Natural latex is included because of its material properties in numerous consumer and medical commodities. Repeated contact with them leads to sensitization – and thus to the latex allergy: When the body is exposed to the actually harmless allergens, the immune system reacts as if it were foreign substances to be defended (e.g. pathogens). The result: It forms a so-called misguided immune response, so that the body reacts hypersensitive at the next contact with latex. The intake of allergens via the respiratory air is considered to be particularly risky – for example, over today forbidden powdered gloves, which is why the latex allergy is particularly common among medical personnel. But you will have to know What causes latex allergy.
In addition, certain risk factors may favor the development of a latex allergy. On the one hand, congenital malformations of the skull, spine or spinal cord are particularly susceptible to latex allergy: Up to 70 percent of people with spine bifida are allergic to latex. On the other hand, malformations in the urogenital area increase the risk of a latex allergy – which probably has its causes in the fact that those affected more frequently (latex-containing) bladder catheters are used. Those who generally tend to develop intolerance reactions to environmental substances (e.g.eczema) also have a higher risk of developing an allergy to latex.
Latex products in everyday life are usually not sufficiently declared and can cause uncontrolled allergic reactions in an existing latex allergy. Products that can be latex include, for example, mattresses, condoms , peccaries, balloons, pacifiers , erasers, chewing gums, car tires, stamp and envelope adhesives, rubber bands (e.g. in underwear), sneakers, stretch clothing and household gloves.
Anyone who has a latex allergy (due to a so-called cross-allergy)is also often allergic to kiwi, banana, mango, avocado, sweet chestnut, pineapple, date, fig and peach. In addition, certain latex allergic-type plants may cause allergic reactions, for example, focusBenjamin and other gum trees, thorn, hemp, periwinkle, coral spurge, mulberry, oleander and poinsettia. In extreme cases even foods handled with latex gloves can cause allergic symptoms if there is a latex allergy.
A major risk for latex allergy sufferers are also medical interventions such as surgery, dentistry and gynecological examinations, if the doctor wears conventional latex gloves and / or other latex-containing medical supplies: The allergen then enters without a protective layer of skin through direct contact with blood and mucous membranes the organism. In a latex allergy, this can cause severe allergic reactions – even anaphylactic shock is possible.
Natural latex allergy can best be treated by avoiding exposure. This can be done in different ways:
Through skin contact
By mucosal contact, e.g. in the genital area or in the intestine
Since latex is part of about 40000 commodities, this is of course not fully possible or means a great loss of quality of life. Those who do not have a strong allergy can reduce contact by lowering protein levels. Latex-containing laundry should be washed and ironed before first use; Items should be soaked in detergent solution for a long time. It is not enough to simply wash the objects with detergent!
However, as exposure causes sensitization, avoidance of exposure should be as consistent as possible. Particular difficulties arise in this context in the professional field; in some cases, the previous occupation can no longer be exercised or only to a very limited extent. Recognition of an occupational disease / occupational disability by the professional associations is very difficult.
One hope in this case would be immunotherapy. This is already under development and will be clinically tested. It is not yet on the market.
For acute cases, there are drugs. Again, the bandwidth is large. From over-the-counter tablets, nasal sprays and eye drops to complete emergency kits. Such an emergency kit should always have a highly sensitized allergic person! It can prevent anaphylactic shock. The doctor should still be visited in this case. It is important to know the use of the medication and, if possible, to tell other people about the allergy and the location of the kit. This is especially true for children! The set is prescribed by the family doctor or allergist and consists of:
Adrenaline as a metered dose inhaler
Antihistamines as drops
Cortisone as a drop
It is also recommended that you have an emergency strap, emergency bag, or SOS capsule, as well as latex-free gloves in the first aid kit.
The greatest danger for a natural latex allergy sufferers are medical interventions, especially in an emergency. It can – depending on the severity of the allergy – to inflammation, healing delays, and even death. For this reason, during planned interventions or examinations, the allergy should always be pointed out and any alternatives should be discussed. Care must be taken during surgery to ensure that all medical devices do not contain latex, in particular respiratory masks, catheters and infusion sets. In examinations, for example, the gynecologist or dentist should be made every time an indication of allergy, since doctors are only human and often the first handle automatically goes to the latex gloves…
First cases of natural latex allergy were described in 1929. Since then, the numbers of allergy sufferers have increased significantly, especially in the last 10-15 years. Already in the early eighties, an increase of cases has been observed. This is due to the increased use of (powdered) gloves to protect against AIDS. However, only an estimated 1% of all serious cases associated with natural latex allergy are recognized as such, but interpreted as an “unexplained anesthetic incident”.