I just discovered on Twitter that today is (arguably) the last day of Allergy Awareness Week. It’s Food Allergy Awareness week from the 13th to the 19th of May so I’ll save an entire installment specially for that but today I’m starting my own Allergy Awareness Week.
I’ve got various and severe allergies (the joy!) but I’m reserving this week to latex allergies. I’m pretty passionate and easily irked about this issue so prepare for some snark!
What is a latex allergy?
Here are the official facts.
There are two types of latex allergy:
* Type I: This is an immediate reaction to proteins in the latex and is potentially life-threatening.
Anaphylaxis – the most severe form of allergy – can occur.
* Type IV: This is a delayed reaction to chemicals used in the latex manufacturing process. Symptoms
occur between 6 and 48 hours after exposure and affect the skin. Type IV latex allergy is not life
threatening. Its effects can range from a mild, localized skin reaction to an extremely unpleasant and
I’m going to be talking about Type I, seeing as it’s my own flavour of allergy.
Allergic reactions vary from person to person, so don’t assume anything just because your great-aunt’s neighbour’s dog-sitter once sneezed when he touched a Kong. Having an unexpected balloon in the room might cause a latex allergy sufferer to sneeze, have an itchy nose, develop a rash or spontaneously vomit and die on the carpet (other nasty symptoms are available).
The ‘fun’ thing about latex allergies is that cross allergies exist, meaning that tomatoes, bananas and kiwis (and others) can cause a reaction too.
Interestingly, this allergy is thought to have become more common because of the number of people wearing latex gloves in the workplace (think doctors, nurses and hairdressers). This information doesn’t help us at all, but it’s interesting!
What is my latex allergy like?
Not great, truth be told. My mother has the same allergy so when, at 13, my arms came out in a purple rash while playing volleyball with a rubber ball in PE, it didn’t really take me long to figure out what was going on.
Nowadays I don’t even need to touch the rubber object, sharing airspace with things is enough and can cause an anaphylactic reaction.
My GP wasn’t particularly helpful and was very reluctant to send me for any tests, but after being pushed it turns out that my histamine reactions to natural latex were off the charts. I had the RAST blood test done as I was a bit wary of having a skin prick test, juuuust in case my immune system went insane and tried to kill me. The scale goes from 1 (not allergic) to 6 (holy shit, call an ambulance), I was a solid 6 and he was gracious enough to apologise for suggesting it was psychosomatic.
Research tells me that there are more up-to-date blood tests available now, so I’ll be asking for one of those to test for other allergies in the future.
Since having the severity of these allergies confirmed, I’ve never left the house without inhalers or at least one epipen.
Confession: I go through antihistamines so rapidly, I do tend to run out without realising. Please be more careful than I am!
I have different reactions depending on the types of latex, it ranges from burning skin to complete shut down of my airways, and everything in between apart from, by some miracle, severe hives. I get the occasional patch of hives on my shoulders, neck and face but very rarely and never for long.
Until you’ve had an allergic reaction, you don’t know the meaning of the word ‘itchy’. It goes so b
All symptoms are pretty shitty and the ‘anaphylactic shock’ one is rather final BUT it’s the sense of impending doom that I hate the most. That is legitimately a symptom.
You’re sat minding your own business and suddenly your hands are a bit itchy and you get the overwhelming feeling that the end is very much nigh. Then you spot the balloon, realise what’s going on and run outside, but the creeping dread up to that moment is awful, it’s the same feeling of pressure and horror you’d have if you realised you’d left the iron on in the house… on top of a box of firelighters.
Things that have triggered my latex allergy in the past 6 months
- Balloons – foil is fine but the regular type are all latex, they just vary in powderiness
- Tyres – bikes/cars
- Shoes – in shops, converse shoes, new shoes
- Elastic bands
- Adhesives (women, beware – some sanitary towels use latex based adhesives)
- Carpet underlay
- Hair ties
- Bra straps
- Elastic waistbands
- 3G pitch surfaces
- Latex gloves – residue left on surfaces, airborne and physical contact
- Medical tourniquet
- Car mats (taxis and friends’ cars)
- Dog toys
- Kids toys
- Makeup sponges
- Doormats (rubber underneath)
- Sports balls (notably volley and tennis balls)
- Envelope glue
My next post will be about the medications I use and tips and tricks to stay safe.