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Latex Condoms and Latex Allergies

Causes and Symptoms of Alleric Reaction to Latex Condoms

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Updated November 05, 2011

How Do Condoms Cause Latex Allergies?

While the actual cause of latex allergy is not known, it is thought that the proteins in the liquid extracted from the rubber tree to make latex may be what people react to. It seems as if latex allergies do develop in part from repeated exposure to latex, and so how many people have latex allergies depends on if you're counting people who are regularly exposed to latex (like health care workers). In the general population the rates of latex allergies are estimated to be between 1% to 6%. Between 8% to 12% of regularly exposed health care workers have latex allergies.

Some people may be more likely to have a latex allergy. For example people who live with spina bifida are up to 70% more likely to have an allergy to natural latex. Again, it's suspected that this may have to do with having increased exposure to latex particularly as a child through surgeries. If it's true that exposure increases risk, people who regularly use latex condoms may be more likely to react to latex.

What Does An Allergic Reaction to Latex Condoms Feel Like?

An allergic reaction to latex may develop within minutes or hours of exposure. People can develop an allergic reaction to latex even if they previously have not had such reactions.

There are three levels of allergic responses to latex:

  1. Mild reactions: include itchiness, dryness, and burning
  2. Medium reactions: same response as above, but the reaction will be more severe, last longer, and spread to other parts of the body
  3. Severe reactions: includes hives, breathing difficulties, and possibly anaphylactic shock which can be fatal.

Keep in mind that what you think may be a latex reaction to the condoms you are using may actually be a separate problem altogether that is being made worse by the use of a condom. If you are having any sort of persistent or painful skin reaction on or around your genitals, it’s a good idea to see a doctor and get it checked out to determine what you are actually reacting to.

What Do I Do If I’m Allergic to Latex Condoms?

First, avoid contact with latex in your daily life as best you can. You should make sure that you only use non latex condoms, non latex dental dams, gloves, and sex toys.

Fortunately there is more selection than ever before in all these product categories, and with the introduction of polyisoprene, non latex condoms are more affordable.

Sources:

U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration

Latex Allergy, S. Reddy, American Family Physician, 57(1), 1998.

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