Latex Allergy: Symptoms, Triggers, Outlook, and More

Medically Reviewed By Elizabeth Feuille, MD
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Latex is a protein that’s present in the sap of a type of rubber tree. Some people can have an allergy to latex. This means that products made from rubber and some tree saps can cause a significant immune reaction in the body. This article discusses the symptoms, causes, and risk factors for latex allergy. It also explains the treatment, management, and outlook. Finally, it discusses related allergens and when to seek medical help.

Types of latex allergy

Someone holds a large bunch of multicolored balloons.
Oriol Llauradó Ballesta/Stocksy United

Latex can trigger different kinds of reactions in people with latex sensitivity. These reactions can include:

  • Respiratory allergic reaction: This causes the immune system to produce unnecessarily high levels of antibodies to deal with an allergen perceived by the body as harmful. This can cause respiratory symptoms, such as asthma and congestion.
  • Anaphylaxis: This is a severe allergic reaction that can cause difficulty breathing, decreases in blood pressure, and shock.
  • Contact urticaria: This causes hives, or swollen wheals, to form on the skin.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis: This is a different type of allergic reaction that causes eczema to develop when your skin comes into contact with an allergen, such as latex.
  • Irritant contact dermatitis: This causes an irritated rash to appear after contact with an irritant, which can include latex. However, it is not considered an allergy.

Latex allergy symptoms

Each person with a latex allergy may experience different symptoms. This can depend on factors such as the severity and type of allergy, how you came into contact with the latex, and other personal factors.

You may experience symptoms such as:

  • swelling
  • itchiness
  • soreness
  • blistering or peeling skin
  • rashes or hives
  • eczema
  • skin discoloration, for example:
    • lighter skin may appear red or flushed
    • darker skin may appear darkened, or brown, purple, or gray

You may also experience respiratory symptoms such as:

  • runny nose or sneezing
  • coughing
  • wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • swelling of the mouth, throat, lips, or eyes
  • feelings of tightness in the chest or throat
  • difficulty talking

You also may not have any symptoms the first time you use latex. Instead, your reaction may worsen with each exposure.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, allergic contact dermatitis symptoms may not start until 1–3 days after skin contact.

When to seek medical help

Sometimes, latex allergies can cause anaphylaxis. This is a severe allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention. 

Call 911 for anyone experiencing one or more of the following symptoms: 

  • rapidly worsening or spreading allergy symptoms, such as hives over large areas of the body or repetitive vomiting
  • combinations of allergy symptoms, such as hives with coughing
  • wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • other severe breathing symptoms, such as feelings of tightness or pain in the chest or throat
  • swelling of the mouth, throat, lips, or eyes
  • difficulty talking
  • any other severe symptoms, such as:

Without effective care, anaphylaxis can be life threatening, sometimes as quickly as within 5 minutes. However, according to a 2017 review, death from anaphylaxis is very rare. In most cases, anaphylaxis can be rapidly relieved with emergency medications, such as epinephrine (Epi-Pen) injections.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding latex allergies, contact your doctor.

Causes of latex allergies

Allergic reactions happen when an allergenic substance, such as latex, triggers a strong immune response in the body. However, not everyone will experience an allergy to known allergens.

Latex can be present in many things, such as:

  • certain types of contraception and barrier protection, such as condoms, diaphragms, and dental dams
  • latex, powdered latex, and rubber gloves
  • balloons
  • rubber balls and other toys
  • erasers
  • foam pillows and mattresses
  • elastic in clothing
  • bottle tips and pacifiers
  • some other rubber products, such as wrist pads, raincoats, and rubber mats

Latex and rubber can also be present in medical tools, such as:

  • bandages and adhesives
  • syringes
  • stethoscopes
  • blood pressure and electrode pads
  • dental products, including orthotic rubber bands
  • catheters and other tubes

Latex allergy risk factors

Some people are more likely to experience allergy symptoms from latex than others, such as:

  • people who have hay fever and food allergies
  • people who have had frequent exposure to latex, such as those who:
    • use catheters that contain latex
    • have had frequent medical or surgical procedures
    • work using latex, such as clinicians, hairdressers, and restaurant employees

Additionally, people with other conditions may have more severe reactions or have a higher risk of complications from allergies. These conditions can include:

  • asthma
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • interstitial lung disease
  • cardiovascular disease

Diagnosis and treatment of latex allergies

If you develop allergy symptoms when using latex items, contact your doctor. They may ask if you have had other episodes of allergic reactions or a family history of allergies. 

Afterward, they may perform tests to help them reach a diagnosis and confirm that you have an allergy to latex. These can include:

  • skin prick tests, where a doctor places a small amount of latex in the skin in a monitored environment
  • blood tests

There is no cure for latex allergy, but medications can help reduce symptoms. Depending on your particular reaction, your doctor may recommend: 

  • antihistamines
  • corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone
  • epinephrine injections
  • over-the-counter care for mild reactions, such as ointments for rashes

Learn more about treatment for different allergies.

Emergency treatment for allergies

If you have a severe allergic reaction or experience anaphylaxis, emergency treatment may involve:

  • epinephrine injections, which is the first line of treatment
  • intubation
  • intravenous (IV) fluids
  • additional medications, such as:
    • antihistamines
    • bronchodilators
    • vasopressors
    • corticosteroids

Read more about preparing for allergy emergencies.

Prevention and management

The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid contact with latex. You can do this by:

  • making sure to inform all members of your medical team about your allergy
  • wearing medical alert jewelry, such as a medical bracelet
  • using latex-free products at home, such as latex-free gloves, contraception, and bandages
  • checking labels of all products for latex
  • avoiding or leaving areas where people use powdered latex
  • washing the skin after contact with latex

Due to these precautions and the reduction in exposure to latex, latex allergy cases may be decreasing. However, it is still important to maintain caution.

If you have a history of allergic reaction, your doctor may recommend carrying an epinephrine injection (EpiPen) with you at all times.

Learn more about how to use an EpiPen.

People with latex allergy may also be allergic to some foods. This is because these foods may contain similar allergenic proteins to those in latex. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, this happens in around 30–50% of people with a latex allergy.

Below are some of the foods that can cause the same allergic reaction symptoms:

  • banana
  • avocado
  • tomato
  • bell pepper
  • peach
  • kiwi
  • chestnut
  • fig

If you have an allergy to any of these foods, it is advisable to inform your doctors and let them know you may be at risk of a latex allergy.


The risk of anaphylaxis and the severity of allergic reactions may worsen with each exposure to latex. However, it is not always possible to know how severe your reaction may be.

According to a 2022 overview, recovery time can depend on the type of allergy. With treatment, anaphylaxis may resolve in hours or days. Contact dermatitis may last for weeks. Some people may experience recurrent symptoms, even without repeated exposure to latex.

Contact your doctor for individualized advice about your outlook.

There is currently no cure for allergies. Very rarely, allergies can be fatal. Treatment, first aid, and prevention techniques can improve outlook and quality of life.


Latex can cause an allergic reaction in some people. This can happen from skin contact or breathing it in, and reactions can range from mild to severe. Symptoms can include swelling, itching, and respiratory effects such as congestion and wheezing.

Some foods, such as avocado and peaches, may also trigger a reaction. This is because they have proteins similar to those found in latex. 

Call 911 for symptoms of anaphylaxis or rapidly worsening symptoms, such as hives or vomiting. If you have access to one, use an epinephrine auto-injector for severe allergic reactions while you wait for medical care to arrive.

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Medical Reviewer: Elizabeth Feuille, MD
Last Review Date: 2023 Jan 31
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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