Dr. Gellner: Latex allergy is more common than you might think. I have it, and it's one of the main reasons latex is not found in medical offices anymore. How do you known if your child is allergic to latex or not, and what should you do about it? I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.
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Dr. Gellner: Latex is a substance made from a milky fluid that comes from the rubber tree. With a latex allergy, the body treats certain proteins in latex as if they were harmful and triggers an allergic immune response. This may happen when products made from latex touch your child's skin, mouth, or even if they are just inhaled. Children who have chronic diseases, such as spina bifida, or have a lot of surgeries, may be exposed to latex from the medical procedures. They may become sensitive to it.
Children who have allergies to certain foods may also develop a latex allergy. Both the foods and the latex have some of the same proteins. These include fruits such as bananas and kiwis, vegetables including avocadoes and tomatoes, tree nuts, peanuts, and shellfish. If you think your child is allergic to latex, it is important to get a diagnosis from your health care provider or allergist.
Symptoms of a latex allergy can develop over several hours, or they may be immediate and severe. The most common reactions are skin reactions, such as hives and eczema flares. If latex is around the mouth or inhaled, your child may have wheezing, trouble breathing, itching and swelling around the mouth, and a rapid heartbeat.
It is possible to have an allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock. This is a serious reaction that is sudden, severe, and can involve the whole body. It can cause swelling of the mouth and throat, dangerously low blood pressure, and trouble breathing. This type of reaction is an emergency. It is treated with antihistamines and injectable epinephrine. Usually, parents or caregivers of children who have severe allergic reactions carry their own epinephrine in case of an emergency. If epinephrine is used, or your child has a reaction, and epinephrine is not available, call 911 immediately.
Many things contain latex, including baby bottle nipples and pacifiers, rubber bands, balloons, Band Aids, IV tubing and catheters, many kinds of medical gloves, and dental dams used in dental procedures. In general, any item that can be stretched may contain latex. There are many things that can be used instead of things that contain latex. These are made from vinyl, plastic, or silicone.
If your child has been diagnosed with a latex allergy, teach your child to known and avoid latex products. Make sure your child wears a medic alert bracelet or necklace. Know what to do in case of an emergency. Ask your child's health care provider about a prescription for injectable epinephrine in case of emergency.
Finally, be sure to tell all dentists, health care providers, teachers, daycare providers, babysitters, friends, and family members that your child has a latex allergy. Anyone your child's going to be spending time with needs to know about this. Something as simple as going to a birthday party with latex balloons can trigger a serious reaction. Be sure you are always prepared for your child.
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