There are two forms of latex allergies, and while one is uncomfortable, the other is dangerous and potentially fatal. Dealing with these allergies is a problem for anyone, as there is so much latex in our environment. However it has particular ramifications in relation to sex.
Here we will look at both of these allergies, though most of this article will be about the more dangerous on, and we will look at the implications regarding contraception, latex fetish wear, and latex sex toys, and in all cases we will recommend alternative solutions.
Latex delayed allergic reaction
In some individuals contact with latex produces a delayed allergic reaction which is known as Allergic Contact Dermatitis. It is very similar to eczema and causes redness and itching of the skin along with blistering and weeping. When it heals it causes dry skin and scaling. Although it isn’t life threatening it can be extremely uncomfortable.
Latex immediate allergic reaction
In addition an increasing number of people are suffering from an immediate allergic reaction directly after coming into contact with latex which is caused by an allergy to natural rubber in rubber latex. This is similar to allergic reactions associated with hay fever and peanut allergy. It can be mild and similar to nettle rash or it can cause severe anaphylaxis in which there is a real chance of death, but fortunately fatalities are extremely rare, though they have been recorded.
In the general population over 6% of people have an allergic antibody to natural rubber latex, and it is greater for people who are frequently exposed to latex rubber articles.
Symptoms of the immediate allergic reaction begin shortly after contact or inhalation. Initially thay appear as itching and a raised itchy rash appears within minutes. This may be followed by sneezing and breathing problems, feeling light heads and possibly collapse. Even if symptoms are mild at first, they can quickly become severe.
If there is contact between the latex and mucus membranes, reactions are more likely to be severe as more latex is absorbed when the latex comes into contact with inside the mouth and other body cavities.
Are you at risk?
If you suffer from other allergies such as asthma, eczema, hay fever or any food allergies than you are more likely to be at risk, particularly if you are allergic to kiwi fruit, banana, tomato, peach and melon as these contain the same protein as the latex rubber.
Working in the rubber industry or health care is also a risk factor, as is frequent contact with rubber.
What should you do if you think you are allergic?
You should visit a doctor for an allergy test. If any latex rubber article has caused you any problems than it is recommended that you take it to the appointment with you as it might be necessary to use it to identify the particular protein that you are allergic to. Although this might be embarrassing, it is still important that you do so.
How to cope with being allergic
The best way to cope with the allergy is to avoid contact with rubber latex, but this is very difficult. You should consider carrying Epinephrine auto-injector pen and you should have antihistamines and wear an emergency bracelet. You also need to inform your doctor, your dentist and even your hairdresser.
It is very important that you avoid rubber condoms or contraceptive diaphragms. As female condoms are made from polyurethane these are safe.
You should buy Avanti non latex condoms which you can get in chemists shops. The problem is with these that they are more likely to slip off or break during intercourse, so you need to take more care; however the upside is that they feel better and have greater sensitivity than latex condoms.
Latex fetish play
If you enjoy wearing latex or being with your partner when he or she is wearing latex, then if your allergy isn’t too severe you still might be able to have fun, but you will need to be very careful. When latex is leached in water shortly after curing most of the allergenic proteins are removed, which means that any fetish garments made from the material is much less likely to cause a reaction, so ensure that your gear is made from un-leached latex. However you should avoid Chinese latex fetish wear as it is likely to be made with unleashed latex.
An alternative and safer solution is buy latex free rubber wear from specialist suppliers.
Latex sex toys
Latex sex toys are a big no-no for similar reasons to latex contraceptives, as contact with the mucus membrane lining of body cavities is far more dangerous than contact with external skin. You should avoid all forms of latex dildos and vibrators. You should also avoid jelly sex toys as these can contain latex.
However there are many non latex alternatives that are equally effective and don’t cause allergenic problems. These include sex toys made from cyber skin which is a thermal plastic that feels very much like skin; silicone, which feels soft and, when at body temperature, quite lifelike; and vinyl sex toys.
Living with a latex allergy doesn’t mean that you need to sacrifice your sex life. We have suggested some alternatives that mean you can continue to practice contraception, safe sex, enjoy latex fetish gear and non-latex sex toys without putting yourself at risk, so stay safe.