Latex allergy testing

Latex allergy testing appointments can be arranged at short notice if your date of planned surgery is imminent. The consultation including testing is scheduled to take one hour.

What is latex allergy testing?

Prick testing to detect a latex allergy can help your doctors decide whether you may be a risk of a serious reaction during surgical or dental procedures due to an allergy to rubber latex.

Latex is a substance present in many sterile surgical gloves as well as in other equipment used during surgical procedures. If you are known to be definitely latex allergic, your planned procedure may need to take place in another healthcare location, or in the same location using special precautions. After testing, you can also be advised of the names of other substances which may cross-react with latex.

What will testing involve?

Initially there will be a detailed discussion with your specialist consultant to identify any previous reactions to latex-containing items, and the nature of any such reactions. You will also be questioned about other skin problems, previous surgery, any other allergies, your general health, what medications you take, and your occupation. If it is thought appropriate to prick test, this will then be carried out immediately afterwards. You will be prick tested usually on your arm to test your reactions to latex solution, latex gloves and latex balloons. The test results will be read after 10-15 minutes and this should be painless. If the tests are negative or unclear, you may then undergo provocation testing.

During provocation testing, you will be asked to wear a finger of a latex glove on one hand and a control finger of a vinyl glove on the other hand. The fingers are examined after ten minutes. If there has been no reaction or the reaction is unclear, you will be asked to wear an intact latex glove on one hand and a control vinyl glove on the other. The hands will be examined after ten minutes.

If your test results are still uncertain you may need to perform an oral test. During this test, you may be asked to blow up a party balloon and keep it between your lips for two minutes. You will then be observed for a further 10-15 minutes. If there is no reaction to this oral provocation and all other tests are negative, you will usually be allowed to go ahead with surgery in the normal way without latex precautions.

What if I react to provocation tests?

If you do react to provocation testing with itching, redness and swelling on the fingers this should settle fairly soon, but you may be given an antihistamine. If you react to oral provocation, for example with lip swelling, then you will be given an antihistamine. In the unlikely event of a serious reaction, such as severe tongue or throat swelling, you may be given adrenaline and will be kept for observation and treatment until you have fully recovered. This then would mean that a diagnosis of latex allergy had been confirmed and full latex precautions would need to be taken for surgery.

You may not be tested if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have severe or uncontrolled asthma, severe heart or lung disease, are taking beta-blockers, antihistamines or a moderate or high dose of steroids. Antihistamines should be stopped at least five days prior to testing.