A Connection Between Latex, Fruit and Nut Allergies

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Copyright 2012 - Kris Heeter, Ph.D.


According to estimates from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, nearly 6% of the United States population has some form of food allergy and as many as 4% has a latex allergy.

On the surface, these two allergies may not seem related, but there is now strong evidence that there can be a type of cross-reaction between latex and some fruits and nut allergies. It's been found that those with a latex allergy may likely be allergic to some fruits and nuts - a health issue referred to as the "latex-fruit allergy syndrome".


Sap being collected from a tapped rubber tree
Sap being collected from a tapped rubber tree | Source

Latex allergies

Latex is the natural sap that comes from the rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis. The sap is used to make the natural rubber that is found in more than 400 medical products in the United States and in over 40,000 other commercial non-medical products.

These products contain two classes of substances that can cause reactions:

1. chemical antioxidants

2. natural proteins

The chemical antioxidants can cause contact dermatitis reactions and the natural proteins can cause systemic allergic reactions in certain individuals. Hypersensitivity can occur in these individuals - a reaction caused by the development of IgE antibodies to specific proteins in latex. Depending on the level of hypersensitivity, the allergy can be serious and potentially lethal.

Latex can enter the body a number of ways:

  • via mucous membranes
  • contact with the skin
  • exposure through open wounds
  • contact with internal organs during surgery
  • intravenous exposure
  • inhalation of latex powder


Fruits and Nuts Potentially Associated with Latex Allergies

The following fruits and nuts have been associated with this syndrome.

  • Banana
  • Pineapple
  • Mango
  • Passionfruit
  • Strawberry
  • Kiwi
  • Avocado
  • Chestnut
  • Celery
  • Bell Pepper
  • Pear
  • Apricot
  • Buckwheat
  • Cherry
  • Fig
  • Grape
  • Melon
  • Nectarine
  • Orange
  • Papaya
  • Peach
  • Plum
  • Tomato
  • Potato
  • Walnut
  • Peanut

In addition, soy and soy products have also been associated with this syndrome.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Keep in mind that some of these are rare associations. Depending on the person with the syndrome, only one or two of the whole foods listed above may be associated with a latex allergy and which ones can vary from person to person.


Pineapple
Pineapple | Source

Which Allergy Came First?

One question that researchers have looked into with this syndrome is whether the latex allergy comes first and later triggers the fruit/nut allergy or vice versa.

Interestingly, studies suggests that the fruit-latex syndrome can occur in two ways:


1. A fruit/nut allergy (to one or more of the above) can trigger a previously undiagnosed recognition of the latex allergy

2. After years of latex exposure and latex sensitivity, one can develop fruit/nut allergies


So the answer really is either one can be the initial culprit.

If an allergy to latex or one or more of the fruits and nuts listed above is suspected, an allergy specialist can perform skin tests to confirm which of the allergens (specific fruits/nuts) associated with the fruit-latex syndrome a person is most likely to have an allergic response to.

One hypothesis for the cross-reactivity seen in the fruit-latex syndrome is that there are proteins (or parts of proteins) in the rubber sap that are structurally similar to different proteins in the fruits and nuts. Several types of proteins have been identified as potentially being the culprits.

Keep in mind that with any allergy, they can develop slowly over time. Someone who may be allergic to latex may not be allergic to any of these fruits or nuts now. However, an allergy to one more of the fruits and nuts listed above could later develop five, ten, or fifteen years form now. Or the person may never develop an allergy to any of these fruits and nuts.

It's a very strange and diverse syndrome!


Related References

“Allergy Facts and Figures,” - Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

Binkley et al. (2003). Latex Allergies: A Review of Recognition, Evaluation, Management, Prevention, Education, and Alternative Product Use. J Athl Train. 2003 Apr-Jun; 38(2): 133–140.

Brehler et. al. (1997). Latex-fruit syndrome: frequency of cross-reacting IgE antibodies. Allergy 52 (4): 404–10.


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Comments 9 comments

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

I don't have latex allergies as far as I know but I do have nut allergies. This is definitely an interesting concept to be considered. This some very interesting information you have presented.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

Kris,

Thanks so much for publishing this article. I have an allergy to latex that's bad enough that I can't use latex bandages. Thankfully, although I have several allergies, none of them are to food.


sashas89 profile image

sashas89 4 years ago from A Series of Tubes

Latex and fruit allergies aren't as common as nut allergies. What gives? Do you have any links to scientific papers about this?


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana Author

@sashas89 - I'll look for some references on this. It's may have to do with the natural plant chemicals in nuts - there may be more than one class of chemicals that causes nut allergies with one class being more common in nuts.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

A very interesting read. It's a relief to know that these allergies, the fruit/nut & latex, occur independent of each other, most of the time. Voted up, useful and shared.


ignugent17 profile image

ignugent17 4 years ago

This is very interesting. I know that when I eat pineapple my nose itch and I just wash it with water. Thanks for sharing this information.

Have a good day! :-)


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana Author

@inguent17 - thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation!


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 3 years ago from Jamaica

I wonder if latex is used on fruits and vegetables as a method of preservation. Maybe the chemicals used for preservation contains trace amounts of latex.


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 3 years ago from Indiana Author

@rasta1 - I haven't seen anything about latex being used to preserve. From what I can tell, it's something in the fruit itself. But I'll keep my eyes open on the research and will post if I find anything that suggests this! Thanks for adding to the discussion.

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