Many types of plasters use adhesives so they can stick to skin and protect wounds. However, some people have a plaster allergy if they are allergic to the materials in these adhesives, or the latex in the bandage.

Allergy to latex is a serious condition affecting a significant proportion of populations worldwide. However, this allergy is more common among people regularly exposed to latex products, such as healthcare workers, mechanics and cleaners.

At Elastoplast, we are constantly striving to increase our range of latex-free products and packaging. From 2021, the majority of the Elastoplast range will be 100% latex-free. This change makes Elastoplast a frontrunner in genuinely latex-free products.

What is latex?

The term ‘latex’ refers to natural rubber latex, a material manufactured from a milky white fluid derived from the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis. Latex materials are used in a wide range of everyday objects, from rubber bands and balloons to babies’ dummies and condoms – as well as many plasters and bandages.

Chemicals such as carbamates and thiurams are added to latex-containing products during manufacturing, to make them more durable and elastic.
Girl applying Elastoplast latex-free plaster
Cuts and grazes happen - Elastoplast Bacteria Shield plasters offer effective wound protection.
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Why does latex cause allergic reactions?

Latex can be an allergen for some people, but the specific symptoms depend on how much latex someone's been exposed to and how allergic they are. There are two types of latex allergy: type I and type IV.

  • Type I latex allergy: Latex proteins cause immediate allergy reactions that develop within minutes to an hour after contact with the item. This reaction ranges from contact urticaria (localised swelling and redness similar to a bee-sting reaction) and extreme itchiness to asthma-like symptoms, a tight feeling across the chest and, in the most serious cases, anaphylaxis. 
  • Type IV latex allergy: This is the more common – and far less serious – form of latex allergy. It usually manifests itself as contact dermatitis, with delayed onset from 12 to 48 hours after skin contact. Symptoms include a rough, scaly rash, and possibly weeping sores.

Latex allergies are more common in people who have existing allergies, such as hay fever and allergies to certain fruits and nuts, or those with eczema. However, a type IV allergy to latex can develop into a type I allergy following prolonged or repeated exposure. This is why people who often wear personal protective equipment (PPE) containing latex are more likely to have a latex allergy.

When to see a doctor about your latex allergy

You may be able to self-diagnose your plaster allergy if you always develop a rash underneath a plaster. However, latex allergies require proper diagnoses, because of the potentially serious and life-threatening symptoms. If you think you may be allergic to latex, you should contact your doctor.

They might perform a skin-prick test, take a blood sample for examination, or both.
Your doctor may also do a patch test if they think you have allergic contact dermatitis, to help identify the trigger. People with a latex allergy can still live perfectly normal lives but do need to take special care to avoid the material.

How to treat a plaster allergy

If you're allergic to plasters, the reaction will usually start to disappear after removing the bandage. In the meantime, there are things you can do to help soothe the rash:

  • Take an antihistamine to reduce the itching.
  • Apply an anti-itch cream.
  • Avoid scratching the rash, as this can cause broken skin. This increases the chance of infection or spreading the allergen.
  • Use a cold compress or soak the affected area in an oatmeal bath.
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Latex-free plasters from Elastoplast

Sustainability is a topic of particular interest and concern to our consumers. As part of our efforts in this field, we strive to be transparent by offering comprehensive information about the safety of the ingredients we use and the environmental compatibility of our formulas and packaging. In addition to striving for transparency, we aim to inform, inspire and involve consumers in our sustainability actions and initiatives.

Health Care Lab Manager Simon Van Leeuwen in the lab
Our Health Care Lab Manager Simon Van Leeuwen.

You may be surprised to learn that latex-free products are not always supplied in latex-free packaging. This means that, although the products themselves are safe, people with a latex allergy can still suffer an allergic reaction after handling the packaging. For example, the pouch and release liner of some “latex-free” plasters still contain latex. At Elastoplast, we are striving to make our products genuinely latex-free – by which we mean both our products and the packaging they come in.

Quite apart from allergy-related issues, removing latex from our products and packaging also has environmental benefits. Commercial cultivation of rubber trees is often environmentally unfriendly and involves the use of pesticides. A great deal of space is also required to accommodate the large trees. 

From 2021, the majority of Elastoplast products and packaging will become latex-free. Our efforts are also continuing to reduce and remove the use of latex across our entire product range. By making these commitments and implementing these changes, Elastoplast is becoming a frontrunner in genuinely latex-free products.

 

 

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Which other items contain latex?

There are many household items that contain natural rubber latex, such as washing up gloves, disposable gloves and balloons. Other items include bath mats, baby dummies, elastic bands, hot water bottles and bath toys. Computer mouse mats, envelope adhesive and rubber pencil tops may contain latex too.
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