Getting the news that your child is allergic to latex is scary enough, but latex may not be their only allergy. According to the National Institutes of Health, as many as 50% of people who are allergic to natural rubber latex are also allergic to some types of fruits and vegetables. This cross-reaction is known as latex-fruit syndrome. Here are three things you need to know about it.
Why does this cross-reaction occur?
Children who are allergic to latex react to the proteins that protect latex plants from fungi and other microbes. Other types of plants, like the ones that produce edible fruits and vegetables, also need this protection and therefore have similar types of proteins. Since these proteins are similar, the body can react in the same way to them.
What fruits and vegetables are involved?
A wide variety of fruits and vegetables can cause problems for kids with latex allergies. Fruits like bananas, grapes, kiwis, papayas, and watermelons are known to be cross-reactive, and vegetables like bell peppers, celery and potatoes are also problematic.
These foods may not cause an allergic reaction every time they're consumed, which makes it harder for you to determine that there's a problem. For example, your child may have a reaction to a bell pepper one day, but then be perfectly fine the next time they eat one. To determine which fruits and vegetables are an issue, you'll need to take your child to an allergist for testing.
How is latex-fruit syndrome managed?
Once the allergist determines which fruits and vegetables your child is allergic to, you'll need to make sure that your child avoids those foods. Avoid bringing these foods into your home to keep the allergens out of the environment. If you're having trouble coping with your child's new food restrictions, a nutritionist or dietitian can help you plan safe meals for your family.
Since your child could inadvertently come into contact with apples, grapes, or other allergenic foods at school, their allergist may recommend carrying an epinephrine auto-injector. This device can be used in case of a life-threatening allergic reaction to give your child time to get to the hospital. Make sure that your child knows how to use their auto-injector.
If your child is allergic to latex, they may also be allergic to common fruits and vegetables like apples or broccoli. Their allergist can perform testing to see if this is the case.