If you have latex allergy, during this holiday season, be careful around poinsettia plants. These popular Christmas plants contain a compound similar to that found in rubber latex, and can cause a severe allergic reaction.
What is Latex Allergy?
A reaction to the substances in natural latex, used to make medical products such as rubber gloves, condoms, and other medical devices. Other household products that contain latex are erasers, pacifiers, and balloons. It can present as a broad range of symptoms:
Type IV: most common presentation is delayed hypersensitivity Contact Dermatitis, which ranges from nonspecific pruritus to red, weepy skin in glove wearers.
Type I: reactions are the most serious, where the rash is combined with systemic allergic symptoms, such as chest pain, drops in blood pressure, shortness of breath, also known as anaphylactic shock.
Latex Cross Reactivity with Foods
Bananas, Chestnuts, Kiwi, Avocado, Pineapple &Tomato show cross-reactivity because of resemblance to a latex protein component. These foods have been primarily responsible for anapyhylactic reactions in latex-sensitive persons. Other foods, including Figs, Apples, Celery, Melons, Potatoes, Papayas and pitted or stone fruits, such as Cherries and Peaches, can also cause milder symptoms such as oral itching.
Persons with a history of reactions to these foods are at increased risk of developing latex allergy, and those who are sensitive to latex should avoid only their personal triggers. The elimination of all these foods, would cause significant dietary restrictions, and is not recommended categorically for latex-allergic persons.
The Issue with the Poinsettia and its family tree
Latex is found in the circulation system within the plant, but is not secreted until the system is accessed by breaking a leaf or injuring the plant in some manner. With the ornamental poinsettia plant, the problem lies in its family tree. Poinsettia is part of the same plant family as natural rubber latex, which is obtained from the Brazilian rubber tree. The two proteins found in poinsettias correspond to proteins also found in natural latex.
How do you test for latex allergy
History is the most important criteria. Your doctor often can tell based on the presentation. Follow up blood tests, to latex and foods, along with an optional, 15 minute skin test can confirm the suspicion. In the United States, there is no standardized extract for latex skin testing, and due to risks of the procedure, in certain cases, skin testing is not recommended.
Be cautious around poinsettia plants if you have a latex allergy. We discourage any direct contact with the plant because of the remote possibility of an allergic reaction