Look Out For Holiday Cross-Reactive Latex Allergens
It’s hard enough to avoid latex and things contaminated with it, but once you have anaphylaxis, you need to learn all the cross reactive allergens to prevent it.
During the holiday season, it seems especially difficult to celebrate the beautiful season because pine sap and poinsettias are in the air in stores, office buildings, hospitals, churches and family homes.
The first year I had anaphylaxis was especially dicey. I learned about real Christmas trees and poinsettias the hard way. We always got a real Christmas tree, hunting it down, cutting, loading it in the car and bringing it in the house to decorate was a fun, family ritual that we all enjoyed. This particular year was our last year we could have a real tree. The real tree not only brought tree sap into our home but also particles collected on the tree over the years of growing such as pollen, bugs, mold, dust, outside pollutants, animal fur, feathers, sap and other contaminants. It was a real Pandora’s box. Unfortunately the smell of pine was from the pine sap, and if you are allergic to tree saps such as latex, this may or may not be a problem. Unfortunately for me, the real tree was no longer welcome in our home. Allergy to latex changed this happy tradition to a nightmare.
Decorative poinsettias used as gifts and decorations in homes, churches, offices and stores can be deadly. They can also be used to decorate banks, convenience stores and many other places. I had one of my worst anaphylactic reactions from being around a poinsettia. Beware of this potentially deadly seasonal floral decoration. Many people, including my allergist’s physician’s assistant, are not aware of the poinsettia being a cross reactive to latex.
Artificial Christmas trees and silk poinsettia plants are a safer option. They are dust collectors so they need to be washed if you have a dust allergy. Some have rubber coated wires with glues from green electrical tapes that can be a latex adhesive. Many artificial trees are made in China and it is almost impossible to find out what they are made from, so it is like playing Russian roulette buying a fake tree or poinsettia. Allergens are probably less though than a real tree. Start 3-4 months ahead of the holiday when trying to establish what the artificial tree is made of and asking for MSDS sheets on them.
After the holidays there are often poinsettias and live greens lingering in stores, shops, churches and convenience stores. So you may find yourself having a reaction when you are in a place that was safe for you before. It may be helpful to prevent a reaction by calling ahead to where you are going to check if they have any real pine greens or poinsettias before you go and avoid it for a few weeks after the plants have been removed. Prevention may be inconvenient but is it worth everything you can do to avoid an anaphylactic reaction.