Q. We’ve just learned that my daughter is allergic to latex. My doctor listed things she has to avoid now – like most balloons, BandAids, apples and bananas. I get balloons and bandages, but bananas? Can you clarify?
Dr. Sharma: Let’s take a closer look at your daughter’s latex allergy to help clarify this. She is allergic to latex because her immune system reacts to a particular protein in latex.
That protein is actually very similar in structure to proteins found in several plant foods, such as banana, kiwi, avocado, papaya, chestnut, tomato, potato, and bell pepper. This is called “cross-reactivity.”
So, the immune system might “cross-react” to a plant food that is structurally similar to latex. Based on limited studies, it seems that one-third to one-half of people with latex allergy might have an allergic reaction to one of these plant foods, especially fresh fruits, which is why this is called “latex-fruit syndrome.”
That reaction risk is the reason avoidance of these fruits and vegetables is standard advice for latex allergy.
Dr. Sharma is an allergist, clinical researcher and assistant professor of pediatrics. He is Clinical Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C. and Director of the Food Allergy Program. Questions submitted below will be considered for answer in the magazine.Note: This column is meant as general guidance and not as diagnosis or treatment of individual patient conditions. For such specific medical advice, please visit an allergist.