Q. Can you help me with a medical mystery? I believe I am allergic to latex. I had a reaction when latex balloons were carried by my desk and I ended up in the ER.
My primary care doctor thinks I have classic symptoms of an allergy to latex. Dermatologists and allergy specialists I have consulted seem hesitant to confirm this diagnosis, however. Apparently the FDA has not approved a latex skin test. Blood tests frequently give false negative results.
Where can I go to get the documentation that is being required by my employer? I work in public health, where I am exposed to latex daily. I worry about another potentially life-threatening reaction.
A. Latex is derived from rubber trees and contains proteins that can be sensitizing. Certain people, especially those who have had frequent occupational exposure to latex, may develop symptoms such as rash, sneezing, itchy eyes or even hives, difficulty breathing and dangerously low blood pressure.
Sadly, there is no completely reliable test for latex allergy, though a symptom questionnaire can be a valuable diagnostic tool (Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, Feb. 2012; Nov. 2012). Exposure to latex during sex (condoms), dental procedures or surgery could trigger a dangerous reaction.
People with latex allergies also need to be especially careful around other sources of latex (such as rubber dish gloves, and yes, even balloons).