Did you ever know of someone who has anaphylaxis to latex and were afraid to visit them because you didn’t want to make them have a reaction?
It is nice of you to care. Some people are cavalier about coming in to the house saying they don’t have any latex on them and those are the scary visitors. Taking the time to prepare and thoughtfully think of everything you have touched, been around or worn is much safer for the person with this allergy and their carefully kept latex-safe environment. If you contaminate their environment they could be in deadly trouble for a long time until they try to figure out what to clean up and they have no other place to go that is latex-safe so it is vital to try to limit bringing latex in to their home and contaminating their space. The following is a minimal list of essential steps to take so you can visit your friend or family member.
1. Do not wear new shoes. The best shoes to wear are plain, undecorated Crocs, because they are latex-free. The Crocs with fur or other decorations are glued on and these are not latex free. The fur may be okay but the glue that holds them on may contain latex.
2. Leave your shoes outside or just inside the door. Some people have plastic boxes just inside the door to put your shoes in if you are afraid to leave the shoes outside where spiders may crawl in. Do not wear any shoes inside or throughout the house. The outside latex contaminants from streets and side walks where there may be invisible residue from tires, latex from driveway coatings, rubber shoe soles, bike tires and other outdoor allergens should not be carried on your shoes throughout the house. Also, other places where you have been may contain latex such as rubberized floor mats in the car or new asphalt and street sealants.
3. Wear cotton clothes. Do not wear Spandex, Lycra, Elastane or rubber containing clothes.
4. Wear clean clothes. Do not wear pants, shirts, or coats that you may have worn when you went to the doctor, dentist, a restaurant, church (where poinsettias or rubber stair treads may be used), movies, mall, funeral home, garage, hospital or anywhere that may have had balloons, rubber gloves, masking or duct tape, rubber bands, sticky fly or mouse traps, new cars, car dealerships, florists, greenhouses, plant stores, hardware stores, toy stores with rubber toys such as whoopie cushions, balloons, rubberized handles on scooters, bikes or kids party places. This is just a very short list of places that can contain latex molecules in the air which can land on your hair, clothes, shoes, bags, purse and anything you have on you which will easily contaminate the carefully maintained latex-safe environment. If you hug the allergic person with these clothes on you may set off a reaction and not be sure exactly why.
5. Do not wear makeup, perfume or strong-smelling potpourri infused in your hair or clothing.
6. Make sure you have washed your hands.
7. Hugging and kissing in greetings and goodbyes are a natural, powerful and wonderful practice, but could be costly for a person allergic to latex. Sadly, I was a person who believed in and enjoyed hugging people. I love people, always want them to feel welcome around me and not being able to hug someone spontaneously is one of the things I miss the most in this world.
For example, I learned the hard way by hugging my dad once, early on in my anaphylactic period, right after he went to the dentist who used latex gloves. In less than 15 minutes I was having anaphylaxis. He felt terrible and I almost died. I don’t want people to ever feel bad about making me sick, so I don’t hug anyone unless they are sure they haven’t been anywhere that is contaminated. I also don’t attend weddings (including my son’s wedding, that was one of the most painful days of my life missing that! I also will be missing my other son’s wedding in the near future which is also ripping me apart! They both said they would rather have me around and I would also rather not ruin their day by dying from contamination from latex that I cannot see, but it is heart -wrenching.) I don’t attend funerals (including my own father’s and husband’s, which totally destroyed me), graduations (including my own children, nieces and nephew), parties, movies, get togethers, church (which I miss very much), and the list goes on as I practice latex avoidance to survive.
As you can tell, this is serious stuff and you cannot see or smell latex. Very suddenly, without realizing it, a reaction can be caused unintentionally.
Another personal example I would like to share with you is when my husband was dying. Friends and family members with good intentions of supporting my husband, me and my family came to the house to visit us. Hugs are always a way to share love and support. It was a stressful time, but being allergic to latex and around so many people, not knowing if they were in a new car (the new car smell is sprayed into cars to make them smell new – this spray contains latex), and any one of the places they may have been – a garage for car repairs or oil changes, around balloons in stores, in a restaurant where countless latex gloves are worn to handle food and clean up, etc. In the process of my husband dying at home, we tried to enlist Hospice to help with comfort and the final things that had to take place. I talked to 12 different local hospices who would not take our case because they could not guarantee latex-free care and absolutely refused to touch our case or even try, like we were radioactive. They were cruel and did not even try to help us find help. Luckily being a nurse (which is how I got this allergy in the first place) I knew I could take care of him with the help of my sons and family, but I needed comfort medications that I could not get except through hospice. Our local doctor is not allowed by law to order the liquid morphine, this is something that can only come from Hospice physicians. Finally, I found one compassionate hospice two counties away who was not afraid to help me and kept contact to a minimum. They even arranged to have a squad that understood latex allergies from their county help to move my husband downstairs to a bed in the living room so we could keep any potential latex contamination to a minimum downstairs in the front room and not in my latex-free bedroom, which was my super safe place if I had a problem. It was pathetic how I could not get latex-free or latex-safe help. I will be forever grateful for this particular hospice, which is no longer in our area. Those people were truly angels and we never had any latex contamination.
After my husband died, I could not attend the funeral services because the funeral home used latex gloves, the makeup on the corpse contains latex, the flowers were probably in a floral shop that contained balloons and some plants are latex cross-reactives, sticky green floral tape contains latex, fruit baskets had bananas and other latex cross-reactives, etc. After the services and meal at the church, anyone wishing to come back to our house had to change their clothing before entering our latex-safe home. It was inconvenient but had to be stressed that this had to be done to keep me from having a reaction while they visited.
8. If you were recently at a doctor’s office, hospital, restaurant, garage, mall, party or somewhere that may have been contaminated with latex and it may be on your clothing when you got in your car, before you visit a person with a latex allergy put a blanket or cover down on the seat of your car to minimize contaminating your clean clothes with the residual, invisible latex that main remain on the seat of the car.
9. Be sure not to be around poinsettias and other tropical plants before visiting as these are strong cross-reactives to latex and may result in anaphylaxis.
10. If you have taken a pet to the vet, be sure you and your pet have had a bath and new, clean clothes before visiting because there are very few vets that don’t use latex gloves.
11. If you eat a banana or kiwi the day of the visit, please stay away as these are also cross-reactives and just a few molecules can cause a reaction.
12. Do not bring gifts of food, flowers, plants, balloons or almost anything because of possible contamination and cross-reactivity.
13. If you happened to touch a newspaper with a rubber band, please wash your hands and for goodness sake, don’t be wearing a rubber band or rubber bracelet on your wrist before visiting. Rubber bands are pure latex. Also masking tape is paper soaked in latex and the glue on duct tape is also a latex adhesive so these are very dangerous for people with latex allergies.
14. Playing with Koosh balls, tennis balls, bicycles with rubber grips, basket balls, and other sports equipment like golf clubs and golf balls should not be enjoyed before visiting someone with latex allergies.
This is quite a list but the person with the latex allergy has to live like this everyday and this is only a minimal list of changes they need to make in their lives. If you would like to visit someone with an allergy to latex and its cross-reactives, following the above list of do’s and don’ts will be appreciated. The list is not intended for you to choose a few of the items on it to follow. All of them must be adhered to in order to prevent contaminating their environment. Your visit will truly be appreciated because most of the restrictions in the life of someone with a severe latex allergy is extremely isolating. By taking the time to review where you have been and being mindful of their needs on this list you will be helping them live.