How to Find Out if a Product Contains Latex
Finding out if a product contains latex can be difficult. What latex is and where it exists are not always clear. But this information matters, especially to people with an allergy or sensitivity to latex.
Natural rubber latex (NRL) is a liquid substance that comes from certain rubber trees. NRL, which is most often simply called "latex," is also sometimes called:1
- Aqueous latex adhesive
- Caoutchouc or caucho
- Latex rubber
- Natural centrifuged latex
- Natural latex
- Natural latex rubber
- Natural liquid latex
- Rubber latex
Allergic reactions to latex
Some people have an allergic reaction when they encounter latex because of a protein in the latex. Up to 6 percent of Americans may have an allergy or sensitivity to latex. The way their immune system responds to the proteins in latex can range from mild to serious.1-3
An allergic reaction to latex can consist of:3
- Runny nose
- Scratchy throat
- Skin rash
- Watery eyes
The most serious allergic reaction is anaphylaxis. A person having an anaphylactic reaction may become confused, dizzy, nauseous, and weak. They may have a tough time breathing and can even die without medical care.3
Reading labels seems like it would be a simple way to find out if a product contains latex. Labels and information about ingredients may be:1
- On the product itself
- On the product's packaging
- In a manual that comes with the product
- In a catalog or seller description
But a few things can make reading labels a challenge. For example, the many different names for latex listed above. Also, many substances go into making a product, and sometimes they are not all listed on the label. In addition, the labels on cosmetics sold to professionals (like a hair colorist in the salon) do not have to spell out the product’s components.1
Some wording on labels may not be right. Latex in the air or on other surfaces can get on products, so they may not be "latex-free." There is no way to confirm a product "does not contain latex."
In 2014, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggested makers label their products with “not made with natural rubber latex” when that is the case. This suggestion applies to makers of biologics, drugs, and medical products, including veterinary products.2,4
It is important that you read labels each time you buy a product. The ingredients used to make a product can change. So labels can change too.1
You may need to look beyond a product’s label to find out if it contains latex. You can start your search on the internet. Some online sources list products that contain latex.
It is well known that people with latex allergy should avoid latex gloves and latex condoms. But latex is also found in many other products and in the materials used to make these products:1-3
- Bandages and other medical products
- Bottle nipples, diapers, and pacifiers
- Electrical cords
- Food prepared by someone wearing latex gloves
- Rubber bands
- Shower curtains
Contact the maker
Finding out if a product contains latex may involve contacting someone. You can call or email the company that made the product. You may have to try several times to find someone who knows exactly what is in a product.1
When you ask someone at the company whether a product contains latex, tell them why you are asking. Explain that you have a latex allergy. Let them know how serious an exposure to latex can be for you.
What to do if a product does contain latex
People with an allergy to latex need to avoid products that contain this ingredient. If you find out that a product has latex, do not use it. Throw away the product or give it to someone who can safely use it. Find a different product to use – alternates do exist.1-3
If you have any reaction to latex – not just a severe reaction – limit your exposure to products that contain latex. An allergy to latex is likely to get worse the more you come into contact with latex. The risk for this happening is greater among people who work with latex directly and often.1-4
Let people know you have a latex allergy. This is extremely important when you go to places where products with latex are used a lot. These places include healthcare offices, hospitals, salons, and some workplaces. Your doctor also needs to know so they can assess and treat you for latex allergy.1,4
Notify the FDA of any allergic reactions you have to products that contain latex. You can do this using mail, email, an online form, or phone. Reporting problems to the FDA helps the administration find out and address the problems.1
Latex can appear in lots of places under various names. Taking certain measures can help you find out if a certain product contains latex. All the measures noted here do take extra time and effort. But the payoff is worth it for people with latex allergies.
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