Doctors are currently uncertain as to the exact causes of latex allergy. It can manifest after dozens or hundreds of exposures to the material. In fact, some doctors think that overexposure to latex is a possible cause as people become more sensitive over time.
There are, however, certain people who are more prone to developing latex allergy than others. These include those with a bone marrow defect, who have a deformation in their urinary tract or bladder, those who have had multiple operations, who use rubber-tipped urinary catheters, and those who have other allergies, eczema or asthma.
As with many allergies and sensitivities, there are a few different kinds of potential reactions to latex. The symptoms can range from mild to severe and can worsen over time with subsequent contact. Mild reactions include irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis. In more severe cases the reactions may include hay fever, pink eye, cramps, serious itching, hives, tremors, heart palpitations, breathing problems and potentially anaphylaxis.
Latex allergies are usually diagnosed when trigger symptoms occur. If the diagnosis is uncertain, a skin test can be performed, but should always be done under medical supervision, in case the reaction is severe.
Avoiding the trigger is always advised but can be difficult since latex is so widely present in a variety of things, including sink stoppers, electrical cords, bath mats and even toothbrush grips. It is important to avoid any contact with latex as much as possible. In mild cases, an antihistamine or corticosteroid can help with symptoms; in serious cases, an epinephrine pen followed by emergency treatment may be necessary.