Latex, also called rubber or rubber, is obtained from the milky sap of the rubber tree – Hevea brasiliensis, native to the tropical forests of Central and South America. It is also extracted from other tree species of Asia – Arcolaelastic – and Africa – Funtumia elastica – but most of the production is carried out in the New Continent.
Although its appearance and texture could be mistaken for a derivative of plastic, it is originally a natural polymer used by the Mesoamerican peoples for more than 3,000 years. The Aztecs elaborated with him the balls for the game of the lama and other sports varieties. The white viscous liquid is collected in cubes that are hung in the trees after practicing in the trunk some small incisions through which it drips.
In the 19th century, the Spaniards discovered that natural rubber was composed of hydrocarbon chains. During the First World War, German chemists began to manufacture it synthetically from petroleum products, which since then became the main raw material for obtaining rubber. Can you develop a latex allergy? The answer is yes and for that you will have to delve deep now.
We say that a person is allergic to latex when they have symptoms due to direct or indirect contact with latex. By direct contact we understand that this person touches latex objects, or is touched with latex objects, or breathes particles in a place where there are floating particles from objects with latex. For example, if a person balloons, or is explored by a doctor wearing latex gloves, or is treated in a consultation in which they have been putting on and removing latex gloves.
By indirect contact we understand that this person touches objects that have previously been in contact with latex, or touches or is touched by people who have had contact with latex. For example, if you eat a food that has been handled by a worker wearing latex gloves, or if you are kissed by a person who has been inflating balloons.
What are the symptoms of latex allergy?
The same symptoms as the rest of allergies; It does not have exclusive symptoms. They may be of skin, such as hives and swelling or inflammation; they can be respiratory, such as asthma, rhinitis and conjunctivitis; they can be generalized anaphylaxis, even with shock or drop in blood pressure.
Objects with latex can also give dermatitis or contact eczema, which is a type of allergic reaction other than the typical classical allergy. This dermatitis is not usually due to latex itself, but to the products that are added in industrial processing.
How late do latex allergy symptoms appear?
The classic or typical allergy usually appears after contact with latex, usually before 30-60 minutes, sometimes immediately, almost instantaneously. The dermatitis reaction usually takes more than two hours, sometimes up to 48-72 hours after contact.
For immediate reactions, a very short contact is enough, even to touch and immediately remove the latex object. For the dermatitis reactions a more constant and constant contact is needed; the act of touching and releasing the latex object immediately does not cause dermatitis.
How does latex allergy?
Latex contains numerous components; some are proteins, which are what can cause allergy. These components break off and come in contact with the body if the latex object is touched directly. Other times these components are detached and remain floating in the air, and can be deposited on the body of the allergic or be breathed by him.
People who do not have allergies but have touched latex can carry latex particles on their skin or clothes, and transmit them to the allergic.
Can all objects with latex allergy?
In theory all objects with latex can cause allergy symptoms. The appearance of symptoms depends on the degree of sensitization of the patient (from minimum to very high) and that the amount of latex is sufficient to give obvious symptoms. Contacts with very little latex do not cause obvious symptoms. It also depends on whether the contact is with the person’s intact skin or that it is with the inside of the body through medical or surgical procedures.
The most problematic objects are new objects, which have fine latex, and which carry dust that helps to release latex particles. This happens with medical gloves especially, with balloons, and with scrubbing gloves. Objects with latex more “spent”, old objects, used and washed, release less latex particles and rarely cause symptoms.
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Who develops latex allergy?
Anyone who has contact with latex can develop allergy, but there are some who are in the so-called risk groups. As with other allergies, the appearance of latex allergy depends on the individual predisposition to develop allergies and on the other hand depends on the frequency, duration and intensity of contact with latex.
Some people, called atopic, have a genetic predisposition, inherited, to become allergic to many substances, such as food, mites, pollens, animals, etc. These people can also become allergic to latex within their general facility.
Other people do not have that facility in principle, but are exposed to environments or circumstances with a lot of contact with latex.
The environment with latex can be work, with the use of latex gloves: health centers, garden workers, cleaning staff that uses gloves, food handlers, hairdressing, construction, latex manufacturing industry. Housewives who use gloves for cleaning can also develop a latex allergy.
People exposed to contact with latex are those who have to undergo many surgical operations or other medical procedures. The inside of the body of these people comes into direct contact with the gloves and with other medical instruments that contain latex. It occurs in children with congenital alterations or acquired alterations: spine bifida, digestive malformations, urinary tract, short bowel, bone abnormalities, consequences of accidents, etc. Children who are operated many times from very young are the group with the highest risk.
The sum of the genetic predisposition plus the environmental contact can cause someone to eventually become allergic to latex.
How does latex allergy develop?
The allergy to latex is not present at birth, but appears with the passage of time. Contacts with little latex do not cause problem, but with the repetition of those contacts, either by wearing latex gloves, or by breathing latex environmental particles, or by being operated on again and again, a person can start to generate I.e. antibodies against the latex. At the beginning you can have these antibodies but latex is tolerated without symptoms: we say that person is sensitized. The antibodies can go up, the sensitization increases, until it reaches a level from which symptoms with latex do appear. We say then that that person is not simply sensitized, but that he is allergic to latex.
This process can take months or years. In the people operated on, the more interventions they have had, the greater the risk of becoming allergic. In atopic people, those who have general facility to become allergic, this process accelerates and takes less time than non-atopic ones. Thus, they need fewer operations to become allergic or less time and quantity of latex particles in their work environment.