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Is Your Latex Allergy Keeping You From Practicing Safe Sex? Here Are Alternative Contraceptives

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We’re sure you’ve heard “safe sex is the best sex” or “safe sex is great sex.” Practicing safe sex protects you and your partner against sexually transmitted diseases. While we know discussing your sex life and asking questions about your body can be embarrassing, promoting safe and enjoyable sex is ideal. However, discomfort can arise for someone with a latex allergy. Yes, this is a real thing. Condoms used by men and women have no side effects but can cause irritation and other discomforts for people with latex allergies or sensitives. But do not fear; safe sex is still achievable if you have a latex allergy.

What is a latex allergy?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a latex allergy is a reaction to specific proteins in latex rubber and between 1% and 6% of Americans are allergic or sensitive to latex. Increased exposure to latex proteins increases the risk of developing allergic symptoms. For those who suffer from a latex allergy, their body mistakes the latex for a harmful substance and reacts, which may cause mild to severe reactions. Condoms have added chemicals that work with latex to make them stronger and more reliable during intercourse.

Natural rubber latex is a protective adhesive that helps reduce (though not eliminate) the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and viral hepatitis. It can also protect against other diseases transmitted through sex, like Zika and Ebola.

What are the signs of a latex allergy?

If you use a latex condom and find out you’re allergic, you won’t melt or turn into a zombie. Most latex allergies develop slowly and are noticed during or after exposure. You may experience a response that can occur within hours or minutes, but the timing varies. Symptoms differ but commonly include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy eyes
  • Scratchy throat
  • Hives
  • Itchy burning sensations
  • Swelling
  • Rash

Although rare, there are more severe latex allergy symptoms, including:

  • Asthma
  • Coughing spells
  • Wheezing
  • Cardiovascular and gastrointestinal ailments
  • Anaphylaxis (a serious allergic reaction that can cause death)

If I have a latex allergy, does this mean I can’t have sex?

Yes, you can still have sex; consider other alternative contraceptives. Remember to discuss your latex allergy with your sexual partner(s) and choose the best non-latex option for you.

Alternatives may include:

  • Internal condoms: Also called “female,” condoms are soft plastic pouches that are placed inside of the vagina and provides the same protection from pregnancy and STDs. Internal and male condoms should not be used simultaneously, because the friction between the two condoms could result in them breaking.
  • Latex-free: Plastic/non-latex condoms are made from plastics like polyurethane, nitrile or polyisoprene. Plastic/non-latex condoms are safe for people with latex allergies or sensitivities and help protect against both pregnancy and STDs. Water-based, silicone and oil-based lubes can be used with plastic condoms as well.
  • Lambskin: Lambskin condoms are male condoms made from animal intestines (usually sheep) lining. Although an excellent familiar alternative, they only protect against pregnancy, not STDs. Lambskin condoms are safe for people who are allergic or sensitive to latex.

Remember that condoms made of lambskin or other animal membranes do not protect against STDs — they only prevent pregnancy. Only synthetic condoms (latex or plastic) prevent the spread of STDs.

What should I do if I think I have a latex allergy?

Talk to your doctor if you believe you have a latex condom allergy. If you experience irritation or discomfort during sex, try using a lubricant for less friction. Your doctor can complete blood work to see if you’re allergic to latex.

Our allergist-immunologist are experts in evaluating, diagnosing and managing allergic diseases and disorders. Schedule your appointment today.

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