Who Has Latex Allergies?

An allergy is when the body’s immune system overreacts to a typically harmless substance and sets off an abnormal immune response. Some people have an allergy to natural rubber latex.

Latex allergies are not common. Fewer than 1 out of every 100 people in the United States live with a latex allergy. Although fairly rare, some groups of people have more risk of developing a latex allergy. These groups include:1-4

  • Healthcare workers and others who often wear latex gloves
  • People who have had multiple surgeries (10 or more)
  • Rubber industry workers
  • People with certain food and other allergies
  • People who get a rash (contact dermatitis) when using latex gloves

Special populations

As many as 3 out of 5 children with spina bifida have a latex allergy. Doctors think this may be the result of frequent and early exposure to latex during surgery and other medical procedures. However, any child who has many medical treatments can be at higher risk for a latex allergy.1

Other types of people who are at risk of developing a latex allergy include:2,4

  • Older adults
  • Children with other types of allergies
  • People on dialysis
  • Those who have had a caesarean section
  • Preterm babies
  • People with urogenital abnormalities, cerebral palsy, quadriplegia, certain types of shunts, multiple birth defects, and more

Healthcare workers and other jobs at risk

Up to 7 out of every 100 healthcare workers in the United States have a latex allergy. Other jobs at higher risk for developing a latex allergy due to frequent exposure include:2,5

  • Food handlers and restaurants workers
  • Rubber industry workers
  • People who work in research labs
  • Housekeepers
  • Hairdressers
  • Gardeners and greenhouse workers
  • Construction workers
  • Painters
  • Funeral home workers
  • Florists
  • First responders such as police officers, firefighters, and ambulance workers

The good news is new cases of latex allergies have become less common since the 1980s and 1990s. This is because many healthcare facilities have switched to non-latex and powder-free products.1,2,5

People with certain food allergies

Some plant-based foods contain proteins similar to the protein found in natural rubber latex. Up to half of people with latex allergies are also sensitive to 1 or more foods, especially fruits. This group of foods are called latex-reactive foods and include:2,5

  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Bell peppers
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Chestnuts
  • Figs
  • Kiwi
  • Melons
  • Papaya
  • Passion fruit
  • Peaches
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes

People with latex allergies are told to avoid these foods along with products with latex.

Latex allergies worldwide

Allergies to natural rubber latex is a global problem. Studies show nearly 8 out of every 100 people worldwide have a latex allergy compared to fewer than 1 out of every 100 people in the United States. Rates of latex allergy vary widely by country, region and type of job. In some countries, between 3 and 5 out of 10 dentists, surgeons, and nurses have latex allergies.4

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Written by: Jaime R. Herndon | Last Reviewed: March 2022