If manufacturers know about latex allergy and the potential for anaphylaxis and death, why would they use latex gloves and rubber on conveyer belts in their manufacturing? It is surprising how many still do…more often that you think!
Once again I found this out the hard way, by taking vitamins and having a reaction a reaction requiring high doses of Prednisone and almost the use of the expensive Epi-Pen. It takes quite a bit of time and questioning to drill down to get the answers. If you call the company that manufactures the medication or vitamins, you need to ask several questions.
- First you ask if the product is latex-free.
- Then you have to go further. Do you manufacture the product with latex gloves in use? Sometimes you have to ask for the Production Manager, the person who is on the floor in the manufacturing process to get a real and accurate answer.
- Do they test the product to be sure it is latex-free? Many do not do this because it is expensive.
- Can they put the answer in writing that it is latex free, either in an email or a letter sent to your address?
Most of the time you cannot get a letter or email because if you have a reaction from it, you have proof of what they said was latex free. You may need to keep asking questions until you are sure. If you can get the company to put it in writing then you can take it pretty seriously.
Here is a little example I went through just to see if I could take Tums. I called the company and they told me there was no latex in the Tum tablet. It felt like I was splitting hairs when I keep asking questions but here you will see why. I continued to ask if latex gloves were worn during production of the Tums. Then I got forwarded to the Production Manager. He said they work latex gloves but only touched the tablets if the pill counter that fills the bottles was off. That occasionally if the count was off by one, they used a latex-gloved hand to put one or two pills in the bottle to fix the count. So then I said, I guess I have to play Russian roulette if the bottle I have purchased was the one that had the latex-contaminated tablet. I am not willing to take a chance like that so I do not buy Tums.
Here is another example of why you keep questioning. It is not about pills but catheters. My friend was severely allergic to latex, went to the hospital where they were careful not to contaminate anything with latex. She had to have a urinary catheter inserted and after they did that, she had an anaphylactic reaction, had to have a tracheostomy and was put on the ventilator for a week until the reaction subsided. They called the catheter company. The package said it was a latex free catheter. They drilled down with the questions and the production manager finally said they were wearing latex gloves to assemble the kits so everything in the kit was contaminated with latex! She almost died, had a hole cut into her trachea because of the reaction she had from that latex free but latex contaminated catheter. This all could have been avoided with proper labeling and someone in charge that is smart enough to understand that touching something with a latex-gloved hand causes contamination!
As far as vitamins go, the only place I have found that makes sure their ingredients are latex-free and their production process is latex free is a USA based company called Pure Encapsulations.
Another company that makes enteric coated baby aspirin, McNeil, is a latex free company. One time I got a bottle of enteric coated baby aspirin but the cap was a grip type cap, felt like rubber and scared me after touching it. Well they are so on the ball, the person answering the phone said that she knows the cap is vinyl and is latex-free. They are so interested in making latex-free products that everyone in the company is aware that the lids are vinyl. I was happy and impressed. Every few years I call just to be sure they have not changed their policies or processes and so far, they are still latex-free.
Just a few weeks ago, my pharmacy stopped carrying the brand of hydrochlorothiazide that I take. They gave me the name of a company they can get it from called Unichem and the phone number. Three weeks ago I called. They told me the production plant is in India. He said he would try to find out and let me know. Three weeks later I made another call to the company to see if it was manufactured in a latex-free plant and they still cannot tell me. They won’t let me talk to the production manager. I am still waiting. This is what usually happens. I will be persistent because I need this medication. The pharmacy also gave me another company that makes it and they can get called TEVA. Same run around. The customer service person has only so many documents to search through. Still no answer. This is what you will typically find, but you need to persist to get an answer. Your life depends on it.
As we find latex-free manufacturers we will keep a running list here so watch the space. Also let us know if you have documented latex-free medication and vitamin manufacturers so we can help everyone in the latex-allergic community. We will make lists of any other latex free items you find, toys, shoes, and clothing, anything at all so our readers can use us as a resource.
Remember, you can have an anaphylactic reaction to only 4 molecules of latex. Do not take any chances. Epipens, antihistamines and prednisone are for life-threatening reactions, basically a last ditch effort treatment that is not guaranteed to work or that you will survive an anaphylactic reaction. You need to check on all of your medications and vitamins for latex contamination and anything that goes in your mouth, gets breathed in or touches your skin. So make those calls, and get those answers so you can be sure your medications and supplements are latex-free. Your life depends on it. Latex avoidance is the only way we can survive this tricky allergy.
Albert Einstein said “Never stop questioning.”