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A Child’s Perspective on Latex Allergies

by Douglas, Pennsylvania 

I am six years old and have Spina Bifida, because of that I was told to not touch latex. It is boring to not be able to play with latex ’cause lots of things are made of latex. It makes me mad that I can’t chew gum especially. 

When I was sick with diarrhea and had to wear diapers, I got big red marks where the elastic touched. Last fall when my dad spread sealer on our driveway, I woke up sick in the night with croup. The doctor gave me a Proventil inhaler I can use now when I get “raspy”. When I get really “raspy” I have to take Albuterol syrup, it tastes yucky and it makes my hands shake. 

I try to be real careful and not to touch latex, but some things I don’t know. I had the principal at school call the manufacturer before I would go on the new gym floor because it was spongy feeling and I was afraid. They gym teacher had to get a different ball for me. My classroom has vinyl gloves in it and I wear them when we finger paint. The teacher finds something different that the eraser dinosaurs for me to use. I do O.K. on the playground because the part that is rubber touches my hinny over clothes and not my hands. 

When I have birthday parties and kids give me gun, I give it to my big sister. We can’t play balloon games or have them for decorations. My friends at church and kindergarten are learning about latex because of me. I remind my teacher, therapists, and sometimes my mommy to check if something is latex to keep me safe. 

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Living without Latex in Your Home

When faced with a Latex allergy, a lot can go through a person’s mind. There may be worry or concern for their wellbeing. Children will worry that it could happen to them. You might feel frustration and anger of helplessness that there is no known cure. You’ll likely experience anger about missing out on special events or attractions due to a loved one’s allergy, or perhaps concern about the future, both the latex allergic family member and the family. Sadness over limiting the types of toys, clothing or other items that can be kept and/or used around the family is a frequent feeling.  

When living with a Latex allergy, it is important to get everyone in the house on-board with the lifestyle. While this will mitigate some of the factors that lead to allergic reactions, it is also a useful way to feel less alone. Here are a few tips for changing up your home and lifestyle to better accommodate a Latex allergy.  

Home and Lifestyle Changes 

Latex avoidance is centric in the family’s lifestyle, and it is important to lead a more isolated and protected life. Carry basic latex alternative and treatment medical equipment at tall times. All family members have a responsibility to ensure the environment is latex free. Here are a few additional steps you can take. 

  • All shoes, boots and sneakers must be kept in sealed containers. 
  • Latex free undergarments and clothing must be used. 
  • Should not travel alone and must travel with another person to doctor appointments 
  • Most of the home ventures must be planned ahead to ensure latex avoidance. 
  • Decreased family activities – Cannot attend events that could result in latex exposure – Parties, function, etc. 
  • Removal of rubber items from house. 
  • Replacement of carpets, steam cleaning. 

Kitchen 

The kitchen is surprisingly full of Latex products. Here are a few to look out for.  

  • Replace rubber sink stoppers and sink mats with non-rubber types. 
  • Replace rubber or rubber-grip utensils and appliance (cooking and cleaning) with plastic or metal 
  • Avoid contact with rubber electrical or water cords and hoses. 

Bathroom 

Latex is water-resistant, which means bathrooms are full of products that use the ingredient. Here are some things to look out for while adjusting to a Latex-free lifestyle.  

  • Replace bathmats and floor rugs that have rubber backing. 
  • Replace toothbrushes that have rubber grips or handles. 
  • Rubber tub toys. 
  • Hairdryer cords and attachments. 
  • Sanitary napkins – some contain rubber. 
  • Adult/Child diapers – some contain rubber. 
  • Cosmetics – some contain rubber. 

Whole House 

Homes are filled with hidden latex products. If you’re adjusting to a Latex-free lifestyle, or if you want to provide more information to friends and family, use this list to illustrate the ubiquity of this ingredient and where Latex products most often appear.  

  • Remove or replace toys with rubber parts, such as rubber wheeled toys, koosh balls, balloons, balls, rubber stamp sets 
  • Kids adhesives such as glue, paste, art supplies, glue pens 
  • Older Barbie dolls and some other dolls are made of rubber 
  • Double – check each toy as many have rubber parts, buttons, etc. 
  • Avoid Rubber bands, mouse and keyboard cords, electrical cords, desktop and chair pads, rubber stamps 
  • Avoid mouse and wrist pads that contain rubber – use plastic types 
  • Avoid keyboards and calculators with rubber keys or switches 
  • AVOID pens with COMFORT GRIP or have ANY rubber coating! 
  • Check & replace any rubber backed rugs 
  • Phones can contain rubber mouthpieces, buttons, antennae and cords – avoid! 
  • Use vinyl for messy cleaning jobs 
  • Remote controllers for TVs, VCRs, etc. can contain rubber grips or keys – avoid! 
  • Electrical cords and weatherstripping – many are rubber 
  • Vacuums, hoses and attachments 
  • Broom handles and grips 
  • Camera, telescope, binocular eye pieces and other parts usually contain rubber 
  • Any adhesive including Envelopes, Stamps, glue. 
  • Newsprint – Newspapers mix ink with latex 
  • Pool toys – most pool liners are vinyl 
  • Bathing caps and elastic in bathing suits 
  • Outside yard tools (watch for comfort grip handles) 
  • Weatherproofing – Car seals, door seals, gaskets 
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Negotiating a Latex-Free Life

LATEX-SAFE Home 

Latex is used in thousands of household products, and for patients with severe latex allergy any contact may produce symptoms. To make a home LATEX-SAFE you must go through the home and remove as many latex products as possible. This requires that you take a home products list and remove and substitute with non-latex products where possible. 

LATEX-SAFE School 

In order for the school environment to be safe, you must work with the school and help them create a LATEX-SAFE environment for your child. You will also need to have them learn to give emergency medications. A home products list will help you show the school what is dangerous for your child and the available substitutes. 

LATEX-SAFE Products 

We have created a list of common household products that contain latex, with substitutes if they are available. The home products list, while accurate at the time of publication, cannot be relied on 100% because manufacturers change their products frequently. If in doubt, you must check by calling the manufacturer yourself to verify the absence of latex. 

Support Group 

You are not alone with your problems. There are lots of people with similar problems ready and eager to help you. Finding a local support group, or joining an online community, can significantly mitigate the burden of living with a Latex allergy. 

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Experiencing the Doctor’s Office with a Latex Allergy

If your child has a documented latex allergy, then every time they enter a medical environment, you should ensure that the environment is as LATEX-SAFE as possible. You should, when possible, inform the doctor or dentist at least 24 hours prior to your visit of your child’s problem. 

This gives them the opportunity to order medication for your child, and to clean the environment of latex residue. If they use latex gloves on other patients, your child should be the first case of the day, or the week, if possible. It is not good practice to use latex gloves in one room when you are treating a latex allergic patient in another. 

If the health care provider does not take the problem seriously, find one who does take it seriously. 

Visiting the Hospital 

The hospital is the most dangerous place a latex-allergic individual can visit. To treat a latex allergic patient, the hospital must be able to provide a LATEX-SAFE environment. This requires that they have LATEX-SAFE protocols and procedures in place, and doctors who take the problem seriously. If they are unable to document that they are LATEX-SAFE, avoid them unless it is an emergency. 

Treatment 

There is no cure for latex allergy. If someone is in a high-risk group, they can prevent the development of latex allergy by avoiding latex products in all areas of their lives. If they have already developed latex allergy, avoidance may lessen the degree of disease they develop. 

If your child is in a high-risk group, you must not allow latex medical products to be used on them, and you and your child must practice latex avoidance. 

Treatment of reactions requires removal of the offending latex, and drug treatment according to the type of symptoms developing. Your child must wear a Medic Alert bracelet & Carry an emergency epinephrine syringe, Epi-pen. 

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Latex Allergy Basics – What You Need to Know

What is a Latex Allergy? 

Latex is the natural sap of the rubber tree (Hevea Brasiliensis). It is used to make natural rubber, which is used in the production of forty thousand industrial products used in the USA. About four hundred of these products are used on a routine basis in hospitals. Latex products contain two types of compounds that cause medical problems: added chemicals such as antioxidants, which cause dermatitis, either irritant or Type IV reactions, and natural proteins, which cause systemic potentially life-threatening allergic reactions (Type I reactions). 

Symptoms include: dermatitis, rashes, hives, hayfever-like symptoms, swelling, asthma and in rare cases collapse. 

Who Is at Risk? 

Patients, especially special needs children, who have multiple repeated exposures to latex, usually through mucosal exposure, are at the highest risk for developing latex allergy. The Spina Bifida Association of America and the FDA estimate that as many as 65% of children with spina bifida, already have latex allergy. Lesser incidences, but still above 25%, occur in all patients with spinal injuries, children with multiple congenital defects, especially urinary tract defects and any child that has had three or more surgeries (33%). These incidences have risen alarmingly over the last 5 years and continue to rise. 

Diagnosis 

The diagnosis of latex allergy is made by a combination of history and tests. If you suspect that your child has latex allergy, you and your child need to be seen by an allergist who is experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of latex allergy. Many allergists use the skin test, but sufferers of latex allergy prefer to start with the blood test. The blood test is risk free and almost as reliable as the skin test. Listen carefully to your child. We know of one case where a three-year-old child refused to enter the ladies’ hairdressers, but would enter the barber shop. He had latex allergy and realized he was reacting to the latex gloves used in the ladies’ shop! 

Food Allergies 

Many of the proteins that cause latex allergy are also found in fruit, vegetables, nuts and cereals. Kiwi, passion fruit, cherries, papaya, banana, avocado, fig, peaches, nectarines, plums, tomato, celery and chestnuts.