How Are Latex Allergies Diagnosed?
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last Reviewed: March 2022 | Last updated: July 2022
Diagnosing an allergy is not always easy, but it is important. Your doctor needs to rule out any other causes for your symptoms to help you manage and treat the allergy.
With latex allergies, an accurate diagnosis is especially important because latex is found in so many everyday objects and can impact your ability to work. Usually, an allergy diagnosis include 3 things:1
- Taking your medical history
- A physical exam
- Tests to rule out or confirm an allergy
Physical exam and medical history
During a basic physical exam, a doctor checks your weight, height, heart rate, and blood pressure. They also look at your eyes and ears, listen to your heart and lungs, and press on your belly.
Your doctor will also take a medical history. This means they will ask you about your overall health and your allergy symptoms. You will also be asked about whether people in your family have allergies too. Be ready to answer questions about:2
- Any drugs or supplements you take
- Past surgeries, accidents, and illnesses
- What you believe you are allergic to
- Vaccine history
- Your home and work environment, especially if you work in healthcare
- Illegal drug and alcohol use
- Whether you have been tested for allergies before
- Whether you are exposed to latex products at work
Be ready to talk about any reactions you had after coming into contact with latex or rubber products, or latex-sensitive foods. If you took photos of what your skin looked like, show those to the doctor. It may also be a good idea to keep a diary of:
- When you first noticed the allergic reaction
- How mild or severe you thought your reaction was
- What you were doing when the reaction appeared
- How long after latex exposure your symptoms appeared
- If the latex exposure was by skin or in the air
- If you have allergic reactions to any foods
This discussion will help your doctor build a picture of your general health and may offer some clues to your allergies.
No single test gives your doctor a definite answer about whether or not you have a latex allergy. That is one reason why there are many different types of allergy tests.
A skin test may be done. This is when a small amount of latex extract is placed on or injected below the surface of the skin on the forearm or back. If you are allergic to latex, a small, red, itchy bump will form. This test is done in an allergist’s office in case you have a severe reaction.2
A blood test may also be ordered. The blood test checks for latex antibodies in your blood. Your doctor may also order a patch test. For this test, your doctor places a small amount of latex on your skin and covers it with a bandage. After 2 to 4 days, the doctor checks to see if you developed a reaction.1
Once the results come back, your doctor uses this, along with the medical history and physical exam, to make a complete diagnosis.3
Your exam may include a lung function test to see how well you exhale air from the lungs. Based on the results, your doctor order imaging tests of your lungs or sinuses.1
Once a diagnosis is made, the doctor can talk with you about what this means for your social life, school, or work. They will talk to you about how to manage your latex allergy and prescribe drugs to help you manage your allergy. They will prescribe emergency medicine like an epinephrine auto-injector and teach you when and how to use them.