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I’ve heard about a new type of latex glove. What is it made of?

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Updated November 08, 2013

Question: I’ve heard about a new type of latex glove. What is it made of?
Answer: The FDA approved the use of a new form of latex, made from the guayule bush, a plant found in the Southwestern desert of the United States. Guayule latex is useful since it provides a needed elasticity to medical products that man-made products currently cannot provide. In addition, guayule latex does not appear to cause allergic reactions in people with latex allergies.

Latex is typically made from the tree Hevea brasiliensis. Thousands of household and occupational products contain latex, from shoes to rubber bands. This material is especially common in the health care industry, where it can be found in surgical gloves, and various pieces of medical equipment.

Latex allergy occurs when a person makes allergic antibodies against proteins in latex. Symptoms of latex allergy can include delayed and immediate symptoms.

  • Delayed latex allergy. Delayed reactions to latex consist of itchy, red and mildly swollen rashes that appear only at the sites of contact with the latex product. These rashes typically appear within 12 to 24 hours after exposure, and are not life threatening. These reactions are similar to those caused by poison ivy, and are due to other chemicals used in the making of latex, rather than the latex protein itself.
  • Immediate latex allergy. These potentially serious reactions occur within minutes of exposure and may cause hives, itching at the site of contact, all over tightness of the throat, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, anaphylaxis and even death. Most people may experience these reactions only upon contact with the latex product. Others are so sensitive that they may have a reaction after being given a drug stored in a bottle with a latex stopper or after breathing the powder that comes off latex surgical gloves.

While it seems likely that some people may become allergic to guayule latex over time, current studies show that people with a known allergy to latex should not experience an allergic reaction to guayule latex. People with latex allergy should speak with their allergist before coming in contact with guayule latex.

Learn more about latex allergy.

Sources:

FDA News Website. Accessed June 24, 2008.

Siler DJ, Cornish K, Hamilton RG. Absence of Cross-Reactivity of IgE Antibodies from Subjects Allergic to Hevea brasiliensis Latex with a New Source of Natural Rubber Latex from Guayule (Parthenium argentatum). J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1996;98:895-902.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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