One Woman’s Incredible Story of a Chronic Allergic Reaction to Latex

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Last week, we received a truly incredible story from Renee, a long-time sufferer of eczema with a chronic allergic reaction to latex. She thought she had been avoiding latex for years, but discovered she’d unknowingly been exposing her body to latex in two hidden ways. Her story is quite shocking! See for yourself.

“I’m 60 years old.  When I worked in an OB/GYN lab in my 20s, there were no nitrile gloves, only rubber.  I became allergic to latex and so learned to stay away from rubber products, even supposedly latex-free elastics, and bromeliads (cross reactive with latex).  In my early 40s I began to have joint pain and skin rashes.  The joint pain was so bad. There were nights where I had to stop on the way to the restroom and just breathe, to try to let the pain ease a bit, before continuing on.  Eventually, my breathing became an issue as well and I was diagnosed with Reactive Airway Disease and exercise-induced asthma.  The joint pains were never definitively diagnosed and I went on the usual merry-go-round of diagnoses, e.g. lupus, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.  But then suddenly, in my early 50s, the problems disappeared.  The joint pain left, the breathing was no longer a problem, and my skin improved.  I didn’t understand why, but I was so grateful.

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In my late 50s, my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. 2016 was full of stress and sadness. My skin problems returned with a vengeance and I found I could not eat many foods that were rich in hevein and its cousins.  Hevein is the protein responsible for latex allergy.  If I ate coconut, palm oil, nuts, etc, the eczema patches flared and oozed.  The itching was non-stop, in spite of a daily regimen of antihistamines.  It was torture.  Everyone said “Stress!” and I thought it was as well, until the symptoms got even worse after my husband passed.  I was only able to eat 17 things and realized I had graduated to a full latex food allergy.  Any other food made my eczema and itching flare.  There were patches of infected skin all over my body.

A few weeks after the funeral, I had a molar pulled.  The oral surgeon showed it to me, saying yes, there had been a hairline fracture just like a previous molar he had pulled when I was in my 50s.  The tooth that he showed me had pink stuff in the root canals and I asked what it was.  He said, “Oh, it’s a resin from a tree called gutta percha.  It’s used to fill in the empty canals after the tooth’s roots are removed in a root canal job.”  I looked at that gummy resin and asked if it might be related to the rubber tree?  The oral surgeon suddenly looked really shaken and went to his computer.  Sure enough, gutta percha is related to the rubber tree.  I was being poisoned by my own tooth?  Incredible.

So looking back, my first autoimmunity started after my first root canal and resolved after the tooth was pulled, and now my second bout of autoimmunity started after the second root canal and would resolve just as quickly?  Sure enough, by that evening my inflamed skin and itching were about 1/2 of what they had been.  But even so, my eczema did not fully resolve and I was not able to add any foods back.  I thought okay there must be something else inside of me that is overstimulating my immune system.  The more I thought about it, the more I suspected a trans-urethral mesh, the “Sparc sling” that had been put in during my hysterectomy in 2004.  It’s the one you see on late-night TV, with lawyers asking if you’d like to join a class-action lawsuit against the manufacturers.  I had also suffered some of the symptoms they said on TV but it was the suspected autoimmunity that bothered me the most.

So on October 9th of this year, during abdominal surgery, the surgeon removed the mesh.  She was able to get it out totally, fortunately.  The rest of my skin began to clear on the operating table – seriously. The head OR nurse had been watching the eczema patches on my arm and chest because of the fear of my reactivity to their tapes, adhesives, etc.  Those things, especially the “inert ingredients” are all partially sourced from coconut and palm oils, and they were concerned of anaphylaxis.  Since I had told them that the patches would flare bright red if I were reacting to something, they were using those patches as their ‘canary in the mine shaft’.  After they wheeled me into PACU and I came out of anesthesia, the head nurse said, “Mrs. McMurray, look at your arm!”  It was totally clear.

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The next day, a hospital official came to my room and asked to see the arm and my chest.  Both were totally clear.  Then the surgeon sent her Nurse Practitioner the day after that – it was still clear.  Everyone said the same thing – that in all of their years of working on patients, they had never seen an allergic reaction, especially something as tenacious as eczema, clear so quickly.

I am home now, three weeks later, and am a little bit red.  No eczema, but just a tinge of redness and a small amount of itching.  This is due to the corset I must wear.  Try as I might, I can’t stop the elastic bits from touching my skin.  But let’s put this in perspective – when that mesh and gutta percha were in my body, elastic sent me into absolute misery.  My skin would become red and weepy.  The sores itched like crazy, usually for 24 hours per day.  At night I’d wake up in respiratory distress because the swelling would reach my neck.  I slept with a rescue kit.  A little bit of redness and mild itching is nothing.  I am so, so happy.  I have to wear this corset for two more weeks and then I can take it off for good.  Then, after a few months, maybe I will start to experiment with slowly adding foods back.

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I feel like I have a future now.  Frankly, when I was in the middle of the misery, I could not see me lasting 30 more years like that.  I did not want to live with that misery. Life is good. There is hope.”

Today, Renee’s skin is clear and healthy. She’s working every day to introduce foods back into her diet, but still experiences hives here and there from negative reactions. Although a nuisance, as she states, they are in no way as intolerable as her chronic eczema was. She also does not need to take as many antihistamines as she used to. By sharing her story, Renee hopes that she can help someone else suffering from a latex allergy.

 

For ideas to soothe your skin, start here for eczema relief!

 

Do you suffer from eczema as an allergic reaction to latex? We want to hear from you in the comments below!

8 Comments

  1. Sally Mae Wright on December 5, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    What an ordeal for you! Thanks so much for sharing with all of us.

  2. Caroline on December 7, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    I’m 75 and even though my Japanese reindeer said I had ‘that cheap white skin’ I had actually never had exzema but last March 2017. My legs an back got it really bad and suddenly. It is December and after being treated by dema doctor I still have most of it.

  3. Renee on December 10, 2017 at 11:31 pm

    You’re welcome, Sally Mae. I hope anyone with a latex-food allergy will find out what works to alleviate their skin problems. And Caroline, good luck to you!

  4. Carole Rains on December 11, 2017 at 8:38 pm

    Astounding. So happy for you that there is even more relief in store for you.

  5. Janice on December 12, 2017 at 9:01 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am so happy you are better!
    I know the feeling when you discover a long hidden cause of eczema.
    I learned about root canals and gutta Perga before I had a root canal and they used a different material. I later had the tooth removed.
    I have since learned to never have a root canal as they often fail and can be bad for us with allergies.
    I had head to toe eczema twice in my life. Once as an infant and once at age 18.
    The infancy eczema mysteriously and thankfully cleared totally after we moved. For the next 16 years we never knew what had caused it!
    Then at age 18 my family got a dog and within 6 months I had head to toe eczema again!
    Ended up in the ER with difficulty breathing. Saw an excellent Dr who immediately said get rid of the dog.
    I cleared once the dog was gone.

    And then we put 2and 2 together,
    The infancy eczema was also caused by a dog!
    We moved from a 2 family house with a dog living there!

    I tell this so others who are suffering might know there is usually a cause for eczema, though it may be difficult to find.
    Blessings to all .
    Ps. I struggle daily, as I cannot use any soap.

    • Renee on December 18, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      Janice,

      My wonderful dog had to go as well. When she left, the eczema lessened a bit so I knew dog dander was at least partly to blame. The gutta percha was about 80% of the problem and the rest was the mesh. Like you, I will never get another root canal in my life. And believe it or not, there was actually a research abstract published, saying people with latex allergies won’t have any trouble with gutta percha. Good grief! I am guessing that if my teeth had not cracked and the gutta percha been released into my mouth, my latex allergy would never have progressed to a latex-food allergy. Next I’m getting a Melisa test to see if I’m allergic to any component of my amalgam fillings. I still have to have that pulled tooth replaced and must also choose between a porcelain and titanium implant.

      You didn’t say whether or not you are allergic to latex, and especially have a latex-food allergy, but if you can’t use soaps, I am guessing that maybe you do. Almost all soaps are sourced from coconut and red palm, which are very allergenic to us. Some common allergens for us are coconut/palm, nuts, pineapple, and nightshades like tomatoes, eggplant, etc. There are a lot more. We also tend to have a problem with formaldehydes like in perfumes and the sizing new clothes have; also with the -isothiazolinones of hand sanitizers. You might be unable to eat or touch some of these things, but are ok with others. It’s really hard to diagnose a latex-food allergy and most allergists are unfamiliar with it. Mostly you have to just get the list of no-no foods and do some testing on your own.

      Here are the soaps I can use: for bathing – Kiss My Face Pure Olive Oil Soap (https://www.kissmyface.com/product/pure-olive-bar-soap/) and for my clothes and hand soap dispensers – Natural Liquid Laundry & Cloth Diaper Detergent (http://www.allensnaturally.com/natural-liquid-laundry-cloth-diaper-detergent-1-gallon/). Neither contains any latexy anything. Also, for shampoo, I use Shea Moisture Superfruit Complex Renewal Shampoo, which I can buy at WalMart. I’m not sure why I can use their shea shampoo since it contains the protein that we are allergic to, but I’m not complaining!

      Best of luck to you!

  6. Leslie on January 16, 2018 at 3:29 am

    Renee,
    Thank you for your story. When I viewed the photos of your bad rash it was like looking at photos of myself–I had an identical rash from latex! My mother also had latex allergies. I have had a root canal so will have to look into that further. I have used Kiss My Face olive oil soap with success. I also use a very simple, unscented lye soap that I bought from a woman on eBay. For a facial moisturizer I use Egyptian Magic. I buy clothes from Wintersilks.com and Normthompson.com–always 100% cotton, 100% silk or a cotton silk blend for me. There aren’t a ton of attractive clothes on these websites so when I find a piece that I like I buy multiples. I take two 24 hour Allegra every day as well as 200MG of Plaquenil. If not for that, I would always have a rash/hives. When it was at its worst I had to get steroid injections and infusions. Why did they think you had lupus? I was put on Plaquenil because I was positive for antiphospholipid antibodies and ANAs, however; my rheumatologist said that she did this as a preventative measure. Lastly, I started wearing 100% cotton medical scrubs with a cotton drawstring waist to lounge around in at home. What a comfort to know that I am not the only person that had suffered with such rashes. Thank you again for sharing your story. I would very much like to correspond with you. You can find me on LinkedIn.com. My last name is Gantner and my profile is “beekeeper”. I would love to hear from you to further compare notes. Thank you.

  7. Sue on February 8, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    Does the sling have latex in it or are you allergic to the polypropylene in the sling? Your story was so interesting to me because I also have a severe latex allergy(used to be a nurse) and am now having a quandary because I have been told I need two root canals and have been disturbed at how cavalier my endodontist was when I told him I had heard there could be a problem using gutta percha. I have also seen that abstract and now it seems because of ONE doctor all of a sudden we can have gutta percha???? I am extremely frightened at the prospect of trying gutta percha and getting myself into big trouble. These dentists seem to think I am being overreactive and paranoid but I have found over the years you have to be because mistakes are made all the time and I am the one who suffers. (i.e. The surgical resident who wore latex gloves and took them off in the hall and did not wash his hands and proceeded to examine my surgical incision whereupon I proceeded to break out in blisters all around the incision from the latex he transferred to my skin). Many times I feel that latex allergy is scoffed at or not taken seriously. I have had reactions from eating food that someone made while wearing latex gloves. People have died from reactions to latex. I get so sick trying to explain this especially to medical people who you would think would know better.

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