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Health Library : The Child Having Surgery

 

Latex Allergy

What is a latex allergy?

Natural rubber latex, a milky fluid found in rubber trees, has a contaminating protein in the rubber that causes allergic reactions, not with the rubber itself. Different types of gloves, condoms, balloons, rubber bands, erasers, and toys are made from natural rubber latex. Children have developed an allergy or sensitivity to latex. Reactions can be seen when products made from latex come in contact with the child's skin, mucous membranes in the mouth, genitals, bladder, or rectum, or the bloodstream (during surgery). Some children may also react when blowing up a rubber balloon or breathing in powder from the inside of latex gloves.

What are the symptoms of a latex allergy?

When a child with a latex allergy comes in contact with products that contain latex, they may experience the following symptoms:

  • Watery or itchy eyes
  • Wheezing
  • Hives
  • Flushing of the skin or a skin rash
  • Itching of the skin
  • Swelling of the skin

In some cases, severe reactions (anaphylactic shock) can occur in which the child may have problems breathing, experience chest tightness, or have swelling of his or her throat or tongue. Severe reactions require emergency treatment.

The symptoms of a latex allergy may resemble other medical conditions. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.

Who is at risk for developing latex allergy?

Some children are more likely to become latex sensitive. These are children who have frequent exposure to latex from medical procedures, including:

  • Children with spina bifida.
  • Children born with anomalies of the urinary system.
  • Children who have had many surgeries.

Children who have allergies to certain foods may also have a latex allergy. Both the foods and the latex may have some of the same proteins. Commonly eaten foods which contain some of the same proteins as latex include the following:

  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Chestnuts
  • Kiwi
  • Passion fruit
  • Papaya
  • Figs
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery

What needs to be avoided if my child is allergic to latex?

Many items at home, in the community, and in the hospital are made from latex. These include, but are not limited to the following:

Home and CommunityHospital
Balloons (including mylar)

Koosh balls, rubber balls

Pacifiers, bottle nipples, eye dropper bulbs

Dental products (such as mouth guards)

Beach toys, art supplies

Rubber bands, Band-Aids, erasers, hand grips on racquets and bicycles

Wheelchair tires

Sport shoes and rubber clothing (such as raincoats)

Disposable diapers

Chux (waterproof pads)

Surgical and exam gloves

IV tubing injection sites

Catheters

Adhesive tape

Electrode pads

Blood pressure cuffs

Tourniquets

Stethoscopes

Any item that is light brown and can be stretched may contain latex. There are items that can be used in place of the items that contain latex. They are made from vinyl, plastic, or silicone.

Some hospitals are developing policies to create a latex-free environment that have significantly minimized your child's exposure to latex. Contact the hospital for more information.

Tell your child's caregivers if:

  • Your child has ever had any type of reaction to a latex product.
  • You think your child has had a reaction to latex.
  • Your child has an unexplained allergic reaction during an operation.

Your child's caregivers include dentists, physical and occupational therapists, doctors and nurses, teachers, daycare providers and babysitters, and friends and family members.

If your child is allergic to latex:

  • Alert the surgical team during your preoperative visit. They will plan for a latex-free surgery and postoperative environment.
  • Avoid ALL latex products at home and in the hospital. Use items that do not have latex in them.
  • Ask your child's doctor to evaluate him or her for pre-medication before surgery to help prevent a reaction.
  • Use a Medic-Alert bracelet or necklace.
  • Carry a pair of nonlatex gloves, information about latex allergies, and/or a note from your child's doctor.
  • Be sure hospital and school records have a latex allergy alert.
  • Teach your child to know and avoid latex products.
  • Ask your child's doctor about the use of injectable epinephrine for your child in the event of an emergency. Have it available for your child in all of his or her surroundings (at home, in the car, at daycare, etc.)
  • Know what to do in case of an emergency. Discuss this with your child's doctor and school nurse.

Note: Avoiding latex products may decrease the chance of your child developing this allergy.

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