By Dr. Max Gomez
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With so many people wearing latex gloves in an effort to protect themselves from the coronavirus, what should you do if you’re allergic to latex?
You may not have heard of it, but latex or rubber allergies — they’re the same thing — are actually pretty common.
Solid numbers are hard to come by, but some estimates say as many as 19 million Americans have a latex allergy.
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Symptoms can vary from skin issues, like red, itchy skin to a rash and hives. If you’ve inhaled tiny particles from powdered rubber gloves, you could have difficulty breathing or even lethal anaphylaxis.
There is no cure for latex allergies. The only “treatment” is avoidance, which is tough because latex is found in so many common products, including household or dish gloves, balloons, rubber bands and balls, some toys, bandages, condoms, diaphragms and a wide variety of medical equipment.
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The good news is that manufacturers have developed synthetic latex that’s missing the protein in natural rubber that triggers the allergy. Many gloves are made from that now, as well as vinyl, nitrile and various other compounds.
Read the label on the glove box to make sure they’re latex-free, and even then, be alert to your allergy symptoms the first time you use them, just in case.