a drop of sap in front of balloons, a glove, a rubber duck, bandaid, avocado, banana, an baby bottle

Understanding Latex Allergies: Where Does Latex Come From?

Last updated: September 2022

A latex allergy is an allergy to the sap from a rubber tree. This sap is used to make natural rubber, or latex products. This is why a latex allergy is sometimes called a natural rubber latex allergy.1,2

Natural rubber latex is a milky fluid that comes from rubber trees. It is the sap of a type of rubber tree called Hevea brasiliensis that grows in Africa and southeast Asia. Since its discovery, humans have used latex for many different purposes. In modern times, it is used to make rubber products. Natural latex is used in many everyday products, for example:3,4

  • Gloves
  • Elastic
  • Balloons

Does Styrofoam contain latex?

Styrofoam is a brand name for a type of plastic called expanded polystyrene. Styrofoam itself does not contain latex. However, latex may be used as an additive in it. So there is the possibility that Styrofoam could trigger an allergic reaction.4,5

Also, Styrofoam does contain chemicals that may be harmful to humans. So if you experience a sensitivity to it, it could be those chemicals, not latex additives.4,5

What products contain latex?

There is no cure for a latex allergy. The best treatment option is to avoid latex. But it can be challenging to avoid latex. Latex products are very common. There are more than 40,000 products worldwide that contain latex. Some of these products are:1,2

  • Balloons
  • Latex medical gloves
  • Condoms or dental dams
  • Rubber bands
  • Stethoscopes
  • Spandex
  • Baby bottle nipples
  • Goggles
  • Garden hoses
  • Mattresses
  • Pacifiers
  • Bath mats
  • Erasers
  • Elastic in clothing
  • Balls and toys
  • Bandages

This is not a complete list. If you have a severe latex allergy, it is important to be careful which materials you are exposed to. It may help to look at product labels to see if they contain latex. Latex may also be listed on products under different names. Or the product could have no label. Also, products that are labeled "hypoallergenic" may still contain latex.2,3

What foods contain latex?

Some foods contain a protein that is very similar to the protein that triggers a latex allergy. These foods may trigger a reaction in people with latex allergies. About 30 percent to 50 percent of people with latex allergies also have food sensitivities. The most common foods that trigger latex allergies include:2

  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Peppers
  • Chestnuts
  • Kiwis
  • Peaches
  • Figs
  • Tomatoes

What are alternatives to latex?

As latex allergies have become more common, alternative materials are becoming popular. For example, there are medical gloves made from vinyl, nitrile, or synthetic latex that will not trigger an allergy. If you need surgery or medical care, you can request that your doctor use latex-free gloves.3

Synthetic latex does not contain natural latex proteins. But it can contain other additives that people may be sensitive to. So synthetic latex is not a good alternative for everyone.1,3

Once you notice that you have a latex sensitivity, it is important to start avoiding latex products. It is possible that over time and exposure, a mild sensitivity can develop into a severe latex allergy. If you have concerns about your latex allergy, plan with your allergist on how to best manage your situation.2

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