All About Latex Allergies

I love when you share my recipes!

Everything you need to know about latex allergies, including what is a latex allergy, what are symptoms of a latex allergy, what treatment options are available, what to avoid, and how to stay safe

A collage of 4 images of latex items including rubber bands, tires, medical gloves, and a plant. A white hexagon in the middle has the words, "latex allergy" in the middle.

A latex allergy is an allergic reaction to the natural sap found in many types of plants. This sap has been extracted to be used in all kinds of products including balloons, medical equipment, shoes, rug backings, and many other products. 

Latex allergies are increasingly becoming more common. 

An allergic reaction can happen any time to any amount of exposure, including touching it, smelling it, or breathing it in. 

While living with a latex allergy can seem overwhelming and difficult, it isn’t insurmountable. 

This article walks you through all aspects of what is a latex allergy, symptoms, what to avoid, what you can still enjoy, and how to best manage your latex allergy. 

Key Takeaways 

  1. Latex is a serious and potentially life threatening allergy with many sources of contamination and even more possible cross-reaction triggers.  
  2. Latex has become a serious health hazard for healthcare workers, patients, and the general public at large.  
  3. Latex is the sap of many kinds of plants and trees, including many house plants.   
  4. While over the counter medications like antihistamines and cortisone creams can provide relief, there is no cure. Talk with your doctor about what the best treatment plan will be for you and your allergies. 

What is Latex?

Latex is the milky sap found in the rubber tree, specifically the H. brasiliensis, and many other members of the ficus family of plants. 

Latex is used to either make things stretchy and bouncy (think things like medical gloves and dog toys) but also molded to make harder rubber products (things like rainboots and garden hoses). 

These latex producing plants include (but are not limited to): Figs, ficus, fiddle leaf, weeping fig, rubber plants, rubber trees, etc.  

Other plants that can contain latex are: Artichokes, aloe, chamomile, chicory, dandelion, poppy, escarole, lettuces, sunflowers, oyster plants, tarragon, dogbane family of plants, vinca major, periwinkle, milkweed, hops, marijuana, hackberries, poinsettias, mullberries, osage-orange, banyan trees, some mushrooms, some conifers, some ferns. 

Natural latex can be white, yellow, clear, orange, or red. 

Be cautious of any plant that exudes any milky sap as that is most likely latex. This is a natural defense of the plant against insects, it just also happens to cause allergies in some people. 

Over 12 million tons of natural rubber latex is produced annually and it is widely used to manufacture millions of consumer and commercial products. Oftentimes the use of latex is not labeled. 

What is a Latex Allergy? 

A latex allergy is a response of the body’s own immune system thinking that latex proteins are a threat. This triggers an autoimmune response known as an allergic reaction. 

The body encounters the latex proteins and surges with IgE proteins and Mast Cells to attack the “invader” in the body. 

This can manifest in several different allergic reaction types depending on the type and amount of exposure. Everything from a rash to a runny nose to a full blown anaphylactic reaction can be caused by latex. 

If you work in an environment that uses a lot of latex, you are potentially more likely to have a latex allergy. Jobs include healthcare and dental professions, food establishments, emergency first responders, painters, rubber industry workers, funeral home workers, florists, veterinarians, hairdressers, etc. 

There are studies done that suggest that worldwide, up to 10% of healthcare workers, 7% of healthcare patients, and 4% of the general population at large are allergic to latex. 

People with other food allergies are more likely to have a latex allergy. 

People with spina bifida are at an extreme risk of a severe latex allergy and no latex products should ever be used around them. 

3 Types of Latex Allergies 

There are 3 main types of latex allergies. 

IgE Mediated Allergic Reaction 

This is an IgE response of the body when it encounters latex in the form of 

  1. Direct skin contact
  2. Mucosal surface contact (eyes, nose, mouth, etc)
  3. Inhaling latex particles (breathing it)

This is the most severe of the types of latex allergies as anaphylactic reactions can occur. 

Cell Mediated Contact Dermatitis 

This is a non life threatening type of allergic reaction that is typically limited to the skin where contact with latex occurred. This results in a localized red rash, bumps, blisters, and can cause oozing of the skin. It typically does not spread beyond the point of contact. 

Irritant Contact Dermatitis 

This third type of latex allergy is not a true allergy in that there is no response of the IgE and immune system. This is a contact irritation of the skin after coming into contact with latex. It is most often found in people who wear latex gloves for their work. It results in a rash that is itchy, but most often dry, red skin with some cracking. 


If you are allergic to latex, you can have one or more of the following reactions. How quickly you react doesn’t always mean you are more or less allergic to latex. These reactions can occur minutes or hours after exposure. Everybody is different. 

A list of possible reactions includes:

  • Contact dermatitis
    • Rash is mostly dry, red, and the skin can crack
    • Rare reactions include raised bumps, blisters, or oozing of the skin 
    • The rash will contain itself to just the point of contact and doesn’t normally spread 
  • Itchy, red skin rashes
  • Hives 
  • Tearing of the eyes, itchy eyes 
  • Cough
  • Asthma attacks
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Stuffy, runny nose
  • Congestion 
  • Anaphylactic reactions (see below) 

Anaphylactic Reactions 

For some people, a life threatening reaction known as an anaphylactic reaction may occur after consuming, touching, or smelling latex. 

If you have an anaphylactic reaction, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. 

Signs and symptoms of anaphylactic reactions include 

  • Swelling and tightening of the throat 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Change of the normal coloring of the skin and in the mucous membranes (inner lips, gums, around the eyes, and in the nail beds)
    • Light skin, check for signs of a dark blue tint in the mucous membranes
    • Medium skin, check for signs of a gray-green tint in the mucous membranes
    • Dark skin, check for signs of a gray or white tint in the mucous membranes 


A diagnosis begins with sharing your history and suspicions with your doctor. An allergist is the most common doctor to diagnose a latex allergy. 

A food and environmental exposure journal can be really helpful in determining any latex allergy (or any allergy for that matter!). You can download a free symptom tracker here. 

For a latex allergy, you should keep note of the food, products, and environments you encounter each day. Record any reactions. And from there,  you can start to play detective and determine if there is a link between anything and your reactions. 

There are a few different allergy diagnostic tests to determine if you have an allergy or not. Your doctor will know what test is best to determine what exactly you are allergic to. The most common testing for latex allergies is: 

  • Blood Testing – Latex has a specific IgE antibody that can be found in blood testing. While not 100% accurate, they can be helpful.
  • Skin Prick Testing – The better option for determining a latex allergy. A small sample of latex in a purified form is placed in the top layer of skin with a small poke (not a needle). The size of the reaction, if any, determines the allergy. 
  • Lung Function Testing – This is not a safe method for determining a latex allergy and so has been discontinued due to the high risk of causing anaphylactic reactions. 


There is no cure for latex allergies, just good management of symptoms. 

  • Avoidance is the best defense 
  • To help with rashes, over the counter antihistamine or topical cortisone creams can be helpful 

If any anaphylactic reaction occurs, you should call 911 or your local emergency service immediately. 

If you have had an anaphylactic reaction in the past, talk with your doctor about receiving an epinephrine auto-injector (Epi-Pen). 

Finally, it is important that you have a personalized allergy action plan for what to do in case of an allergic reaction. Talk with your doctor to plan what you should do in various situations. 


The best way to manage your latex allergy is to avoid it as best as possible and minimize any exposures that do occur.

As with most allergies, the more frequently you are exposed to the allergy, the worse your reaction will be over time. 

Of all the allergens, latex is one of those that is so prevalent in everyday modern life that it is almost impossible to totally eliminate all sources. The best that you can do is to reduce your exposure as much as possible. 

Names for Latex 

Here are all the names of latex to watch out for in ingredients and on labeling. 

  • Natural Rubber Latex
  • Natural Latex Rubber
  • Rubber Latex
  • Natural Latex
  • Latex Rubber
  • Natural Centrifuged Latex
  • Natural Liquid Latex
  • Aqueous Latex Adhesive
  • Latex 

Hidden Sources of Latex 

You may not realize it, but latex is used in various and multiple products and you need to be aware not just for reading ingredient labels but also to avoid certain types of products. If you are in doubt, contact the manufacturer and don’t use it! 

This list is to give you an idea of where latex can be. For some things, like balloons, they almost always contain latex. For other things, like eyeliner, you need to read the labels to make sure it is safe. 

  • Balloons 
  • School supplies
    • Erasers
    • Glue
    • Tape 
    • Backpacks 
    • Calculator buttons 
    • Drawing pencils 
    • Modeling clay 
    • Mouse pads 
    • Pen and pencil grips 
    • Paints 
    • Pens 
    • Rubber bands 
    • Chair pads 
    • Headphones / earbuds 
  • Backpacks
  • Cosmetics
    • Eyelash glue 
    • Hair bonding adhesives 
    • Face and body paint
    • Eyeliners 
  • Athletic shoes
  • Shoes 
  • Rain Boots 
  • Rain coats 
  • Rugs and rug pads 
  • Backing on drapes, insulating curtains 
  • Tires
  • Tools
    • Hoses, garden hoses, wiring 
  • Underwear and bras
  • Elastic in clothing 
  • Socks, especially athletic socks 
  • Rubber toys
  • Rubber dog toys 
  • Bath toys for babies 
  • Baby bottles
  • Pacifiers
  • Bandages 
  • Foam mattresses and pillows
  • Latex mattresses 
  • Dental products
    • Orthodontic bands 
  • House plants 
  • Hairbrushes 
  • Sexual products
    • Condoms, diaphragms, IUDs, toys
  • Medical equipment (see section below) 
  • Paint 
  • Workout equipment
    • Resistance bands
    • Yoga mats 
    • Rubber coating on free weights 
  • Sports Equipment
    • Helmets
    • Balls 
    • Bungee cords
    • Goggles
    • Golf clubs
    • Baseball clubs
    • Mouthguards 
    • Bikes 
    • Playground equipment 
    • Swim caps 
    • Elastic in uniforms 

Latex Cross Reactions 

Many times, the body can get confused and have what is called a cross reaction. This is when the body thinks that it has encountered an allergen, even if it hasn’t, but because the protein structures are so similar, the body reacts as if it has been in contact. 

For most people, just because an item is on this list does not mean you have to avoid it. This is just a list of known, possible cross reactions. This is just to help you be aware and know that you are the best advocate for what is happening to yourself. 

There are three main types of latex cross reactions: Latex fruit syndrome, Latex and shellfish, and Latex in Medical. 

Latex-Fruit Syndrome 

Some foods have a similar protein structure to the natural rubber latex. This can cause a cross reaction known as latex-fruit syndrome. Around 30-50% of all people with a latex allergy can have this happen to them. 

Here are some foods that possibly can cause a cross reaction:

  • Most common:
    • Apple
    • Avocado
    • Banana
    • Bell pepper
    • Chestnut
    • Fig
    • Kiwi
    • Peach 
    • Tomato
  • Less common:
    • Apricot
    • Celery 
    • Coconut
    • Mango
    • Papaya 
    • Passion fruit
    • Pineapple 
    • Spinach
    • Strawberry 
  • Other foods have also been reported to cause latex cross reactions:
    • Buckwheat
    • Castor bean
    • Cassava 
    • Carrots
    • Cherry
    • Chickpea
    • Citrus fruits 
    • Cucumber
    • Curry spice
    • Dill
    • Eggplant 
    • Goji berry 
    • Grapes
    • Hazelnuts
    • Jackfruit
    • Lychee
    • Nectarine
    • Oregano 
    • Peanuts
    • Pears
    • Persimmon
    • Pumpkin
    • Rye
    • Sage
    • Soy
    • Sunflower
    • Tobacco
    • Turnip
    • Walnut
    • Wheat
    • White potatoes 
    • Zucchini 

Tip! If you are finishing reading this list and starting to panic, please remember that just because it is listed here does not mean you need to avoid it if you have a latex allergy. This is a list for people who are still experiencing symptoms after having removed obvious latex sources from their lives and still having reactions. This list is just to give you an idea of possible triggers. Again, don’t avoid everything on this list if these foods are safe for you to enjoy. 

Latex and Shellfish Allergies 

Recently, there have been reports of a cross reaction between latex allergies and fish/shellfish. The exact cause is still unknown. Just be aware if you have either a latex or shellfish allergy that these cross reactions can occur. 

Read this for more info on Shellfish Allergies.

Latex and Medical Procedures  

Latex is still used widely in the medical industry. For both patients and healthcare workers, it is an ubiquitous occupational health hazard. 

Latex can be found in the following items:

  • Medical gloves 
  • Catheters
  • Dental rubber bands
  • Medical rubber bands 
  • Syringes 
  • Airway and intravenous tubing 
  • Stethoscopes 
  • dressings, wraps for wounds 
  • Bandages 
  • Dental dams and bridges 

Disposable medical gloves are a major source of airborne latex particles. The cornstarch used in the gloves for ease of use becomes a carrier for the smaller latex particles and can contaminate an entire space easily and quickly. These airborne latex particles are a big danger for those who are allergic. 

People with a latex allergy who are in need of a medical procedure or surgery should schedule to be the first patients of the day when the airborne latex particles will be lessened after the room hasn’t been used overnight. 

Always call ahead of time to ensure that no latex gloves are used on site. 

Don’t forget to ask at the dentist or pharmacies as well. 

Latex FAQs

Are rubber and latex the same thing? 

Yes and no. Latex is a natural compound in the rubber plant family. Rubber is an umbrella term that can refer to anything made with natural latex, although it doesn’t always contain latex. Confusing, I know. 

There are 3 types of rubber: Natural Rubber, Synthetic Rubber, and Silicone Rubber. 

  • Natural rubber is made with natural latex. 
  • Synthetic rubber is made from synthetic latex. 
  • Silicone rubber is made from an elastomer, which is a type of silicone and not a latex.

Are natural latex and synthetic latex the same thing? 

No. If you have a latex allergy you should be able to use synthetic latex with no allergic reactions. 

Synthetic latex is made from styrene and butadiene, two common petroleum compounds. 

Can I wear Spandex if I am allergic to Latex? 

Yes, you can wear spandex if you are allergic to latex. Spandex, also called lycra, lycra spandex, or elastane, is a synthetic, non-natural latex based product and is recommended for people with latex allergies. 

More Allergy Articles to Read 



I love when you share my recipes!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *