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Kids who start wheezing after blowing up a balloon or breathing in the powder inside a latex glove likely have latex allergies (or latex sensitivities), and they may be exposed to more triggers than their parents realize.
Rubber balls, pacifiers, baby bottle nipples, eye dropper bulbs, mouthguards, beach toys, art supplies, rubber bands, Band-aids, erasers, hand grips on bicycles, sneakers, raincoats, shower curtains, computer mousepads, clothing elastic and disposable diapers? All of them can contain latex.
But it’s the connection with latex allergies and food that’s surprising a lot of people.
Natural rubber latex is a milky sap that comes from the rubber tree plant. It’s mixed with chemicals to give it its elastic quality, but the sap itself contains the same protein as many common foods, so people with latex allergies may also react to the following:
- Castor bean
- Chick pea
- Citrus fruits
- Goji berry/Wolfberry
- Indian jujube
- Passion fruit
- Peppers (Cayenne, Sweet/bell)
- Sunflower seed
It’s called “latex-fruit syndrome,” although there are plenty of other foods that make the cut, too. Reactions can range from watery/itchy eyes and wheezing to gives, flushed skin, rashes, itching, and swelling. In severe cases, people with latex allergies can experience an anaphylactic reaction.
Adults are at a higher risk of developing latex allergies if they work in healthcare, if they’ve had multiple surgeries or if they work in the rubber industry (making them exposed to natural rubber latex).
Children who have undergone many surgeries are also at risk (particularly children with spina bifida), which means parents need to take special precautions before a medical procedure — surgical gloves, IV tubing, catheters, tape, and blood pressure cuffs can all include latex, too.
If you suspect your child may have latex allergies, talk to your family physician to create an allergy action plan. He or she may need to carry epinephrine in the event of a severe reaction and it’s also important to discuss the allergy with the school.