Natural rubber latex is a kind of rubber obtained from the sap of rubber tree plants. Because it is very elastic, it can be easily made into a variety of medical products and everyday items. Anyone who uses these products may develop an allergy to proteins originating from the rubber tree or to chemicals used when the product is made. Recently, latex allergy has become more common. Fortunately, now it is more easily identified and understood.

Latex allergy is often characterized by itching, flushing, watery eyes or a rash. Hives or swelling may occur in the area touched by latex. More seriously, severely low blood pressure and/or swelling of the airway may result, causing problems with breathing. This is called an anaphylactic reaction and can cause death if not treated.

An allergic reaction can happen suddenly even if you have been exposed to latex products previously and not had any problems. A reaction is more likely to occur when latex comes in contact with mucous membranes such as those in the mouth, urinary tract or rectal area.

People with spina bifida seem to have a high risk of developing latex allergy. Although the reason is unclear, this may be due to frequent contact with latex products such as urinary catheters and surgical gloves. Other patients with a high risk of developing latex allergy include those who:

  • Have been diagnosed with a spinal cord injury
  • Have had six or more surgeries
  • Have had long-term catheter use
  • Have food allergies to avocado, banana, kiwi, papaya, passion fruit, chestnuts, peaches or tomatoes
  • Have been exposed to frequent use of latex gloves/products
  • Have extrophy of the bladder

Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare has reduced its use of latex and uses non-latex gloves, catheters and other medical equipment for all latex-allergic and high-risk patients. We recommend that non-latex products routinely be used at home, work, etc., if possible, for people in the high-risk group even if they have not had a reaction to latex.

Familiarize all of your health professionals, dentists, therapists, home nurses and care providers with latex precautions and latex allergy. A latex allergy wallet identification card is available from Gillette clinic nurses. If you have experienced a latex reaction, your doctor may want you to consider an Epi-pen® (bee sting kit) and a medical alert bracelet.

Latex is commonly found in the hospital, doctor’s office, dentist’s office, home and community. The following lists of latex/latex-free products are taken from a Spina Bifida Association of America publication. This is a sample listing of common products containing latex. You can find more complete listings from the Spina Bifida Association at www.sbaa.org. If there is any question about whether a product contains latex, contact the product manufacturer.

Latex in the Home and Community

Might Contain Latex

Safe Alternatives

Art supplies: paints, glue, erasers, fabric paints

Look for latex-free brands - Elmers (school glue, Glue-All, GluColors, carpenters wood glue, Sno-Drift paste), FaberCastel art erasers, Crayola products (except for rubber stamps,
erasers). Liquitex paints.

Rubber balloons

Mylar balloons

Balls: Koosh, tennis, bowling

Plastic or vinyl

Carpet backing, gym floor, basement sealant

Provide barrier - cloth or mat

Clothes: appliqué on T-shirts; elastic on socks, underwear; soles on sneakers, sandals

Cloth-covered elastic, neoprene (Decent Exposures, NOLATEX Industries)

Elastic - on clothing, diapers

Cloth, Velcro

Feeding nipples

Selected Gerber, Evenflo, MAM, Ross Mead Johnson nipples

Handles on racquets, tools

Use vinyl, leather, or cover with cloth/tape

Pacifers

Soothies (Children’s Med Ventures), selected Binky, Gerber, Infa, Kip, MAM

Latex paint

Avoid skin contact and inhalation

Rubber bands, bungee cords

Plastic bands, string

Toys - Stretch Armstrong, old Barbies

Jurassic Park figures (Kenner), 1993 Barbie, Disney dolls (Mattel), many toys by Fisher Price, Little Tikes, Playschool, Discovery, Trolls (Norfin)

Water toys/equipment: masks, bathing suits, caps, scuba gear, goggles

PVC, plastic, nylon

Zippered plastic storage bags

Waxed paper, plain plastic bags

Band-Aids

Gauze with plastic tape, 3M Active strips (latex in pkg)

Bed protectors (washable rubber)

Disposable underpads

Blood pressure cuff

Use over clothing

Catheters (rubber - Baxter, Bard)

Silicone (Kendall, Argyle), Plastic (Mentor, Bard)

Crutches: tips, axillary pads, handgrips

Cover with cloth, nonlatex tape

Dental dams, cups, bands, root canal material,
orthodotic rubber bands

PURO/M27 intraoral elastics (Midwest Ortho), wire springs, dental sealant (Delton), dams (Meer Dental), John O. Buttler Co.

Dressings: Dyna-flex (J&J), BDF Elastoplast
ActionWrap, Coban (3M), Butterfly closures

Duoderm (Squibb), Opsite
NOTE: Steri-strips, Tegaderm, Tegasorb (3MO, have latex in package.

Elastic bandage (Ace Wrap)

Elastic bandage by TENS or Baster, or cloth

Electrode bulbs, pads, grounding

Selected Baxter, Dantec EMG, Conmed, ValleyLab, Vermont Med

Endotracheal tubes, airways

Selected Berman, Mallenckrodt, Polamedco, Portex, Rusch, Sheridan, Shiley

Enemas, Ready-to-use (Fleet-latex valve)

Glycerin, BabyLax (Fleet), Theravac, Bowel Management Tube (MIC) cone irrigation set (Convatec)

G-tubes, buttons

Silicone (Bard, MIC, Stomate)

Gloves, sterile, clean, surgical, latex

Vinyl, neoprene, polymer gloves

Moleskin

Adhesive felt (Acme)

Oxygen masks, cannulas

Remove elastic bands; check valve content

Reflex hammers

Cover with plastic bag

Stethoscope tubing

Do not let tubing touch child

Suction tubing

Davel, Mallenckrodt, Yankau suction catheters

Syringes

Some BD syringes Abbott PCA Abboject, Norm-Ject (Air-Tite), EpiPen

Tapes: pink, Waterproof (3M), zonas, Moleskin,
Waterproof (J&J), adhesive felt (Acme)

Dermaclear, Dermicel, Waterproof (J&J), Durapore, Microfoam, Micropore, Transpore (3M), Mastisol liquid adhesive

Tourniquet (for blood drawing)

Place over clothing or Children’s Med Ventures, Grafco, VelcroPedic, X-Tourn straps (Avcor)

Wheelchair cushions (ROHO)

Cover with cloth

This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your health care providers. If you have any questions, talk with your doctor or others on your health care team.