Q. I have a family history of strong latex allergy (among many other allergies). I know the best solution is prevention, so I avoid latex for myself and my children as much as possible. But there are many rubber and other products that might also contribute to latex allergy, and I'm not sure how to know which materials I should try to avoid and which ones are considered safe. For example, I am currently shopping for sandals for my family, and many shoes contain latex and similar materials. If they don't say "latex free," but they do describe what materials they are made of (urethane, vulcanized rubber, etc.), how do I know if these are likely to cause problems for my family or not?
A. A family history of natural rubber latex allergy does not necessarily predict that you have latex allergy. If you believe you have had problems with skin or respiratory symptoms around latex, consult a qualified allergist to be tested to latex. If you have had no problems around rubber products in the past, and you are not yourself allergic, you need not be concerned about coming in contact on occasion with rubber latex-containing products.
Those persons who have regular contact with latex protein in rubber gloves, such as health care workers or workers using latex materials in manufacturing, are at greatest risk to develop latex allergy.