How do you know if you're allergic to latex?
December 5, 2007 9:32 PM   Subscribe

Other than dying first, how do you know if you have a latex allergy?

So other than anaphylactic shock, how do you know for sure that you have a latex allergy? My daughter had a baby about six weeks ago and was catheterized during the delivery. Ever since then it burns when she pees but the OB/GYN says there's no infection. Last week she had minor surgery with general anesthesia (for something else) and it seems like her uvula is HUGELY swollen and her throat is really, really sore.

The reason we are wondering if these two problems could be due to a latex allergy is because when she was about three years old she had stitches on a large cut with those little steri-strips thingies. When it was time for the strips to come off, they peeled away big chunks of skin and we were told then that she was allergic to the strips. She is also allergic to penicillin if there could be any connection there. Her siblings have various allergies too. Her sister gets hives from exposure to cold (yes, it's true!) and her brother has asthma, so a new allergy in the family wouldn't be too much of a surprise.

Yes, she is going to the urologist as soon as she can get an appointment but we're also wondering if a trip to an allergist is in order.
posted by tamitang to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes, a trip to the allergist is in order, STAT. As the mother of a son with a myriad of strange allergies, I know that people can be allergic to anything. Latex allergy is common, and I'm not sure how they test for it, but certainly your daughter doesn't have to risk anaphylactic shock to know for sure. Her problems might be caused by something non-allergy-related, but it doesn't hurt to rule it out.
posted by amyms at 9:53 PM on December 5, 2007

The allergen presentation was six weeks ago yet she still has inflammation? Seems strange to me that her condition wouldn't improve if this was an allergic response.
posted by dendrite at 10:01 PM on December 5, 2007

I had some of what maternity floor nurses like to call "discomfort" after being catheterized with my first labor, and I think it lasted at least that long or longer. I used to have to turn the faucet on full blast, spray myself with a peri bottle in hopes of tricking myself into peeing, and rest my head against the cold side of the sink while wishing I were dead, in order to make anything happen. And for the first several weeks, I also maintained a slight Vicodin buzz at all times. I am not allergic to latex. I just had a baby resting up against my urethra for several hours while I snoozed and enjoyed my epidural.

But the second part does suggest something out of the ordinary, and I'd get that referral to an allergist just to rule it out.

I am not a medical professional, just a lady whose first baby-having experience resulted in a lot of resentment of my human need to express waste fluids.
posted by padraigin at 10:16 PM on December 5, 2007

My girlfriend's cousin would always get big red marks around her mouth after dental visits. It was a sign, but not nearly as severe as anaphalaxis. Go to the grocery store and get a box of latex gloves. Make her wear one for an hour. See if she gets a rash. If not, you know it's not a latex allergy. If she gets a rash, it shouldn't be too serious, and shouldn't last too long, so it'll only be a minor inconvenience. IANAD.
posted by fvox13 at 10:19 PM on December 5, 2007

I'm allergic / intolerant to non-latex steri-strips and mepor (sp?). Maybe it isn't latex.
posted by acoutu at 11:01 PM on December 5, 2007

Your daughter has had sex involving condoms, yeah? That was how an ex of mine first made a surefire discovery of her latex allergy.
posted by Roman Graves at 1:38 AM on December 6, 2007

People allergic to latex also tend to be allergic to fresh fruit like strawberries and tomatoes.
posted by idiotfactory at 1:52 AM on December 6, 2007

The swollen uvula is probably not due to latex allergy; it is relatively commmon after general anesthesia and is due to such things as trauma during laryngoscopy or trauma from suctioning secretions. Most airway devices are PVC, the only latex devices I know of off the top of my head are nasal trumpets and even most of those are no longer latex.
posted by TedW at 4:53 AM on December 6, 2007

If you're worried about allergies, go to an allergist. Tell them your concerns. They will draw blood and send it off to the lab, where they will administer a RAST test. This is a good idea anyway, to see what other foods or environmental factors your daughter may be allergic to.
posted by billysumday at 5:39 AM on December 6, 2007

I'm latex allergic. Like Roman Graves's ex, I found out through the use of condoms. I had it confirmed by an allergist. I've had a patch test done on my back and scratch tests done on my arms.

The thing with latex allergy is that if you're sensitive to latex your sensitivity will increase the more you expose yourself to it. While I don't have an anaphylactic response today, I may later in life. So, do not have her wear a latex glove for an hour as fvox13 suggests. Get her checked by a real allergist.
posted by onhazier at 6:08 AM on December 6, 2007

I have a latex allergy, and it does not seem unreasonable that she would still be experiencing symptoms after a month or more.

If your daughter thinks she is allergic to latex, she should tell everyone that she encounters at the hospital that she has a latex allergy, at least until it is confirmed. Have them write "NO LATEX" in big letters all over her charts. Don't risk further exposure.

Also, don't dismiss the possibility of latex allergy just because contact with some forms of latex don't seem to provoke a reaction. Latex is a rubber that is combined with other chemicals to give it various properties - that's why it can be in condoms, gloves, catheters, paint and other stuff. Some people, myself included, have reactions to latex in some forms but not in others.

There also seems to be an association between latex allergy and some tropical fruit allergies.

My personal experience, any physical contact makes me itchy and swollen, and it can take a month or more before I recover. Symptoms start forming about a half hour to an hour after contact. Most of my reactions have been on my face (thanks, dentist!), and they manifest first as a red flush, then dry skin that cracks, bleeds and falls off. It sucks a lot, itches, burns and is unbearably painful - plus embarrassing because my face is falling off and I can't cloister myself for the month it takes to recover. When I'm around drying latex paint, I have asthma-like symptoms, plus itchy eyes and sneeziness.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:57 AM on December 6, 2007

When I'm around drying latex paint, I have asthma-like symptoms

That's very curious, considering there's no latex in latex paint.
posted by toxic at 10:04 AM on December 6, 2007

Huh, maybe it's another allergy, then. I have had reactions to latex paint since long before I started having reactions to gloves, bandaids, etc.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:12 PM on December 6, 2007

There is a simple blood test for latex allergy.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:34 PM on December 6, 2007

There also seems to be an association between latex allergy and some tropical fruit allergies.

This is true. I have a latex "sensitivity" (a precursor to a full-blown allergy, according to my allergist), and have been allergic to bananas and mangos my entire life.

And yeah, latex paint doesn't contain the kind of latex people with allergies react to, since it's all synthetic. I checked with my doc before painting a few months back to be sure. Any chance your reaction was from the painters tape? Most of that stuff contains latex. Or the tons of other nasty chemcials in the paint.
posted by Kellydamnit at 12:37 PM on December 6, 2007

I don't really have much to add, other than that I have a sensitivity to adhesive strips but have no latex allergies. It's not so bad that chunks of skin come away, but I get a welt that last for days and days from any sort of medical tape. I haven't had it examined, but always assumed it to be something in the adhesive on the strips, rather than the strips themselves.

Also, my brother had the allergic to cold thing. Just thought I'd share that. No one believes me when I tell them. We have weird allergies in my family too. :)
posted by sarahmelah at 2:51 PM on December 6, 2007

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