Have a Latex Allergy? 4 Safe Condom Types for You
If you rely on condoms, latex allergies can bring your sex life to a painful halt. An expert offers safe alternatives.
Does wearing latex gloves make your hands itch? In some people, latex exposure can ignite a full-blown allergic reaction.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Of course, gloves aren’t the only things made from latex. Most condoms are latex-based, too. Luckily, there are plenty of latex-free options available.
Even if you are OK with latex, you may need to consider them for the sake of your partner.
“Women are more likely to experience an allergic reaction to a latex condom than men,” says David Lang, MD, Chairman of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
The vagina’s mucus membranes make it easier for latex proteins to enter the body. During sex, women with latex allergies may encounter vaginal swelling and itching.
“Mucus membrane exposure to a condom in a woman with latex allergy could provoke a serious systemic reaction,” he says.
Latex is a milky fluid from the rubber tree. It’s the main source of natural rubber.
Latex sensitivity develops in some people over time through repeated exposure. It causes the same type of skin reaction — red, itchy bumps — you might see from poison ivy.
Before latex-free gloves were widely available, the issue was common among healthcare workers. Latex sensitivity is now less common, Dr. Lang says.
True latex allergies are even more rare. But they cause a more severe response. You may notice itching, hives and swelling. You may also have difficulty breathing and feel like your throat is closing up.
Although very unlikely, anaphylaxis (a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction) is possible. Your body reacts when latex proteins cross the skin barrier.
Though most condoms contain latex, there are a few alternatives made from plastic, synthetic rubber or other natural products. These alternatives include:
If you’re concerned you might have a latex allergy, see your doctor. He or she will use either a skin or blood test to find out.
It’s also a good idea to ask your doctor for more information about latex-free protection during sex. He or she can offer advice on the best option for you and your partner.