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Latex allergies - for hospital patients

Latex products - hospital; Latex allergy - hospital; Latex sensitivity - hospital; Contact dermatitis - latex allergy; Allergy - latex; Allergic reaction - latex

If you have a latex allergy, your skin or mucous membranes (eyes, mouth, nose, or other moist areas) react when latex touches them. A severe latex allergy can affect breathing and cause other serious problems.

Latex is made from the sap of rubber trees. It is very strong and stretchy. For this reason, it is used in a lot of medical equipment.

Hospital Items That Contain Latex

Common hospital items that may contain latex include:

  • Surgical and exam gloves
  • Catheters and other tubing
  • Sticky tape or electrode pads that can be attached to your skin during an ECG or medical procedure
  • Blood pressure cuffs
  • Tourniquets (bands used to stop or slow blood flow)
  • Stethoscopes (used to listen to your heart beat and breathing)
  • Grips on crutches and crutch tips
  • Bed sheet protectors
  • Elastic bandages and wraps
  • Wheelchair tires and cushions
  • Medicine vials

Other hospital items may also contain latex.

Are you at Risk for a Latex Allergy?

Over time, frequent contact with latex increases the risk of a latex allergy. People in this group include:

  • Hospital workers
  • People who have had many surgeries
  • People with conditions like spina bifida and urinary tract defects (who often have frequent surgeries or need urinary catheters)

Some people who have latex allergy may also have reactions to certain foods. This is called "latex-fruit" syndrome. The foods most commonly associated with this syndrome include bananas, avocado, and chestnuts.

Foods that are less strongly linked with latex allergy include:

  • Kiwi
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Celery
  • Melons
  • Tomatoes
  • Papayas
  • Figs
  • Potatoes
  • Apples
  • Carrots


Latex allergy is diagnosed by how you have reacted to latex in the past. If you developed a rash or other symptoms after contact with latex, you may be allergic to latex.

Allergy skin testing is not easily available in the United States to diagnose a latex allergy. But a blood test can be done. If you have latex antibodies in your blood, you may be allergic to latex. Antibodies are substances your body makes in response to latex allergens.

An allergist may recommend exposure to latex to see if you are allergic. This exposure could cause a severe allergic reaction and should only be done in a well-supervised setting.

Signs and Symptoms of Latex Allergies

You can have a reaction to latex if your skin, mucous membranes (eyes, mouth, or other moist areas), or bloodstream (during surgery) come into contact with latex. Breathing in the powder on latex gloves can also cause reactions.

Symptoms of latex allergy include:

  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Hives
  • Skin redness and swelling
  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Scratchy throat
  • Wheezing or coughing

Signs of a severe allergic reaction often involve more than one body part. Some of the symptoms are:

  • Having a hard time breathing or swallowing
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach cramps
  • Pale or red skin
  • Symptoms of shock, such as shallow breathing, cold and clammy skin, or weakness

A severe allergic reaction is an emergency. You must be treated right away.

How to Avoid Exposure to Latex in the Hospital

If you have a latex allergy, avoid items that contain latex. Ask for equipment that is made with vinyl or silicone instead of latex. Other ways to avoid latex while you are in the hospital include asking for:

  • Equipment, such as stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs, to be covered, so that they do not touch your skin
  • A sign to be posted on your door and notes in your medical chart about your allergy to latex
  • Any latex gloves or other items that contain latex to be removed from your room
  • The pharmacy and dietary staff to be told about your latex allergy so they do not use latex gloves when they prepare your medicines and food


Dinulos JGH. Contact dermatitis and patch testing. In: Habif TP, ed. Habif's Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 4.

Lemiere C, Vandenplas O. Occupational allergy and asthma. In: Burks AW, Holgate ST, O'Hehir RE, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 56.


Review Date: 3/31/2024

Reviewed By: Deborah Pedersen, MD, MS, Allergy & Asthma Care, PC, Taunton, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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