With the holiday season upon us, you should be aware that up to 40% of latex sensitive people may have a reaction to poinsettias, but the risk of a serious reaction is very low because the latex proteins are not airborne. This means the reaction will only affect the skin, not the airway and blood stream.

Although anyone can develop a latex allergy, people with Spina Bifida are at a higher risk because the sensitivity may be caused by significant long-term exposure to latex proteins. Individuals who catheterize, or have several surgeries beginning early in life, are at a very high risk because of the cumulative effect of exposure over time.

People with a latex allergy are allergic to the proteins in latex, a form of natural rubber found in many common household products. Common symptoms include: itching, skin irritation, sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, scratchy throat, cough and wheezing.

Because the symptoms of latex sensitivity are common responses to many other conditions, many people may not realize they are at risk for a serious reaction. Serious reactions, such as anaphylactic shock, can be life threatening and require immediate emergency care.

Prevent latex allergies and dangerous reactions by avoiding exposure to natural latex products. For a list of “safe” non-latex alternatives, visit the American Latex Allergy Association.