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What is a latex allergy?

Some children have an allergy or sensitivity to latex. Your child may experience symptoms such as wheezing or hives after blowing up a rubber balloon, inhaling the powder found inside latex gloves, or any time a product made from latex comes into contact with your child’s skin, mucous membranes, or even bloodstream (during surgery, for example).

Which children are at risk for developing a latex allergy?

Certain children are more likely to develop latex allergies; for example, if your child requires frequent medical procedures, and therefore is frequently exposed to latex, the risk of an allergy is elevated. Latex allergies are more commonly found in children who have had many surgeries and children with spina bifida or urologic anomalies.

Furthermore, children with allergies to certain common foods are more likely to have latex allergies, because both the foods and latex may have some of the same proteins. Allergies to the following commonly eaten foods may indicate a risk of developing an allergy to latex:

  • bananas
  • avocados
  • chestnuts
  • kiwi
  • passion fruit
  • papaya
  • figs
  • peaches
  • nectarines
  • plums
  • tomatoes
  • celery

Careful avoidance of latex products may decrease the chances of your child developing a latex allergy.

Which items should be avoided if my child has a latex allergy?

Household products that may contain latex include:

  • balloons
  • rubber balls
  • pacifiers, baby bottle nipples, and eye dropper bulbs
  • condoms and diaphragms
  • certain dental products, such as mouthguards
  • beach toys
  • art supplies
  • rubber bands
  • bandages
  • erasers
  • hand grips on racquets and bicycles
  • wheelchair tires
  • sneakers and raincoats
  • disposable diapers

Medical items that may include latex include:

  • surgical and exam gloves
  • IV tubing injection sites
  • catheters
  • adhesive tape
  • electrode pads
  • blood pressure cuffs
  • tourniquets
  • stethoscopes

Any item that is light brown and can be stretched may contain latex; replace latex items with items made from vinyl, plastic, or silicone.

What steps should be taken to protect a latex-sensitive child in the event of illness or emergency?

Your latex-allergic child should wear a Medic-Alert bracelet, and you should notify all of your child’s caregivers — including dentists, physicians, nurses, teachers, babysitters, friends, and family members — if your child:

  • has ever had any type of reaction to a latex product
  • has an unexplained allergic reaction during an operation

Further steps to take include:

  • Carry a pair of non-latex gloves and information about latex allergies.
  • Teach your child to recognize and avoid latex products.
  • Ensure that your child’s hospital and school records contain a latex allergy alert.

Latex Allergy | Treatments

How do we treat latex allergies?

Your child's physician may prescribe an emergency kit, containing epinephrine, to keep on hand in case of accidental exposure to latex.

Important note: Mylar balloons for patients are welcomed at Boston Children's Hospital. However, latex balloons are not allowed anywhere in the hospital. To ensure a safe environment for patients and their families, deliveries of latex balloons to the hospital will not be accepted.

Latex Allergy | Programs & Services