Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Public Service Announcement: Latex Allergy

Jennifer approaches the soap box and climbs on top of it.

Latex is a cumulative allergy.  The more exposure a person has to latex, the more likely they are to develop the allergy.  I am not in a known group who is likely to develop a latex allergy.  I am not a hairdresser who wears latex gloves to dye people's hair every day.  I am not a health care worker who wears latex gloves to protect herself from patients.  I am not a tattoo artist.  I am not a fetishist with a requirement to wear latex gear.

Nonetheless, I have a latex allergy.  Life has become a comical charade.  Going to street festivals is now an athletic event where I doge balloons.  Children's birthday parties are no better.  We once went to a Passover Seder where each participant was given a goodie bag of plagues including a latex balloon.  I don't remember which plague the balloon was supposed to represent.  I was surrounded by metaphorical plagues, but the latex balloons being tossed back and forth between families was my real life plague. 

Swim caps?  Gotta keep me away from them.  Bandaids?  I generally carry my own, but if I'm offered one, I'll ask if they are latex free.

Because of my latex allergy, I also now have an allergy to avocado and bananas. Banana bread?  I can't eat it.  Burritos with avocado?  No.  I'm already quite a specific eater in many ways; I honor animals by choosing to be a vegetarian as I have been for the past 20+ years, so having additional food restrictions to things that I love has made eating even more challenging.

If I come in contact with latex, avocado or bananas, I currently break out in hives.  But, because of its cumulative nature, my reaction gets worse each time.  My next exposure could result in anaphylactic shock so I carry an EpiPen in my purse. 

What was my exposure to latex?  What led to me getting this allergy?  I had a minor surgery in the 80s at the height of the AIDS scare when healthcare workers were apparently hyper-vigilant about protecting themselves.  Therefore, there was a lot of latex in the operating and recovery room.  I was in my teens.  In the 90s, I had another surgery which added to the accumulation of latex in me.  When I started having an active sex life, I heeded the warnings from health workers who advocated for safe sex.  And, I had a bunch of safe sex using latex condoms starting in the 90s until I met my husband in 2004.

It's likely that our daughter is susceptible to the latex allergy since I am.  How am I trying to protect her?  I try to limit her latex exposure when possible.  If a doctor or a dentist has a choice between latex and non-latex gloves, I'll request the non-latex gloves.  Same with bandaids.  We already don't have latex in the house because of my allergy, so she generally isn't playing with balloons or koosh balls while at home.

When she does come into contact with latex, which she undeniably does, I don't freak out (too much) because I know that she doesn't have much of a latex accumulation built up in her.   In the case of a medical emergency, it'll be OK for her to be touched by latex gloves.  At a friend's birthday party, she can play with latex balloons.  If someone puts a latex bandaid on her, it's OK.  On playdates at other people's houses, I try to be vigilant so that I'm not unnecessarily exposed, but I try to maintain some sense of normalcy so that I don't freak out my daughter or the family that we are playing with. 

We're no where near the stage where she has to be thinking about how to have a safe and healthy sex life.  When that time comes, I hope that there are condom options that are not latex, but that also don't involve animal skin!

I try to keep her exposure to latex down where possible, while letting some sort of reasonable amount of latex come into her life.  And, I try to do this while somehow avoiding the latex myself. 

Jennifer steps down from the soapbox.   


  1. Love your intro! Thanks for sharing. I had no idea that repeat exposure to latex can lead to an allergy to it. I love avocados and don't want to have to stop eating them and, of course, things are easier in general without allergies to worry about. Good to know!

  2. Okay, I'm a little slow, but I just realized that Sophie, the overpriced teether, is made out of latex rubber. We were given one as a gift when Bobby was a baby. Now I'm thinking Sophie was not the best gnawing option and maybe I should get him out of the toy rotation. Seems like parents ought to know about that.

  3. Hi Felicity! Yes, I think Sophie is a problematic fad. A cute giraffe toy now, difficulty finding safe sex options later!