Latex Allergy Symptoms: What You Should Be Aware Of

    Updated 03 February 2023 |
    Published 03 December 2019
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Olga Adereyko, MD, Primary Care Physician, General Practitioner, Medical Consultant
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    Latex condoms are an affordable, reliable birth control method that helps prevent STIs. But what if you have a latex allergy? It’s important to be in the know about latex allergy symptoms, and the benefits of using non-latex condoms, in order to stay healthy.

    How common is it to have a latex allergy?

    Natural rubber comes from latex (or the milky sap) of rubber trees. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 1 percent of the country’s population is allergic to latex. While most individuals do not experience a latex allergy when using condoms, certain high-risk groups tend to develop latex allergic reactions more easily.

    As a result of repeated exposure, a latex allergy or sensitivity can gradually develop over time. Health care workers and others who regularly use latex gloves have an increased likelihood of being allergic to latex. Before non-latex gloves were widely available, latex sensitivity was becoming increasingly prevalent in the health care industry. Children with spina bifida, as well as those undergoing frequent medical treatment or surgery, also exhibit a higher incidence of allergies to latex. 

    Lastly, if you’ve been diagnosed with any other types of allergies, there’s a good chance that a latex allergy could eventually crop up. This includes asthma, eczema, hay fever, and food sensitivities to potatoes, apples, avocados, carrots, celery, chestnuts, kiwis, bananas, melons, papayas, or tomatoes.  

    Latex condom allergy symptoms

    One of the most common symptoms of latex allergy is contact dermatitis, a latex allergy rash that appears on the surface of your skin. You may observe a red, itchy rash near your genitals or other areas where you’ve come into contact with latex. Swelling, hives, and bumps could also be signs of a localized allergic reaction to condoms. 

    In severe latex allergy cases, you might have a systemic allergic reaction to condoms involving your entire body, not just specific areas. Women tend to be more susceptible than men because the vaginal mucus membranes rapidly absorb latex proteins.

    Indications of a systemic allergic reaction to condoms include swelling, hives, and a red, itchy rash in areas that didn’t come into contact with latex. Watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, congestion, scratchy throat, and a flushed face are additional systemic latex condom allergy symptoms.

    One of the most common symptoms of latex allergy is contact dermatitis, a latex allergy rash that appears on the surface of your skin.

    In rare cases, a latex condom allergy can even lead to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction that constricts your airway and creates a swollen tongue or throat. It’s usually marked by wheezing, difficulty breathing or swallowing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, low blood pressure, and a weak, rapid pulse.

    If you’re feeling a severe allergic reaction to condoms, it’s critical to seek medical attention immediately. Be sure to inform health care professionals of your symptoms of latex allergies to prevent further exposure at the hospital or doctor’s office.

    Have you already been diagnosed with a latex allergy? Well, if it’s your first time using condoms, choose a non-latex condom like polyisoprene condoms. Remember to check the ingredients in personal lubricants and toys beforehand, just in case they contain latex or other allergens that might cause a reaction.

    How long does a latex allergic reaction last?

    The duration of latex condom allergy symptoms varies depending on the unique nature of your sensitivity to latex. The onset of symptoms of a condom allergy ranges anywhere from a few minutes after contact to 24 to 48 hours later. 

    Note that a latex allergy rash is capable of spreading, and repeated exposure to rubber and latex might trigger hypersensitivity and more severe reactions. If you suspect you have a latex allergy, steer clear of latex condoms, gloves, and other rubber products.

    How to deal with a latex condom allergy

    An antihistamine and/or hydrocortisone cream should relieve an itchy rash. If your latex allergy is severe, consider asking your doctor about carrying an injectable epinephrine pen to treat anaphylaxis.

    A non-latex condom for sensitive skin is a comfortable, effective birth control option for those allergic to latex. Try any of the following:

    • Polyisoprene condoms: Made from synthetic rubber, they don’t contain the specific proteins which cause allergic reactions to condoms. Polyisoprene condoms offer comparable levels of pregnancy prevention and protection from STIs.
    • Polyurethane condoms: Composed of very thin plastic, as opposed to natural rubber, they demonstrate similar levels of effectiveness when it comes to birth control and fighting STIs. However, they don’t fit as tightly as latex condoms and can easily slip off.
    • Lambskin condoms: They help prevent pregnancy and are manufactured from natural animal products, such as sheep intestines. Unfortunately, they fail to provide the same degree of protection from STIs due to microscopic holes which may allow viruses to pass through. Only use lambskin condoms if contracting an STI isn’t a concern.
    • Internal condoms: They’re comprised of synthetic latex coated with silicone  lubricant. This particular type of non-latex condom is inserted into your vagina to create a barrier. Levels of effectiveness at pregnancy prevention and STI protection prove comparable to other condoms.

    Although these are all considered hypoallergenic condoms, if you notice symptoms of an allergic reaction after use, consider switching to a different option. Talk with your doctor about alternative forms of birth control and ways to shield yourself from STIs.

    The takeaway

    If you have a latex condom allergy, there’s no need to worry. Countless products can be found on the market today to address your personal needs and preferences. Do a little research, and eventually you’ll find the most comfortable and convenient method for you.

    History of updates

    Current version (03 February 2023)

    Reviewed by Olga Adereyko, MD, Primary Care Physician, General Practitioner, Medical Consultant

    Published (03 December 2019)

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