A latex allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to proteins found in latex, triggering a defensive reaction that can cause unpleasant and, in some cases, life-threatening symptoms. However, certain children are at greater risk of becoming allergic to latex. Those at higher risk include children who are frequently exposed to latex. As many as 65 percent of children with spina bifida have latex allergy. More than 25 percent of children with spinal injuries are allergic to latex, as are 33 percent of children with multiple congenital defects (especially urinary tract defects) and any child who has had three or more surgeries. It is the repeated exposure to latex (usually through catheterization) that sensitizes children to latex. This progressive allergy worsens with increased exposure.

Children who develop latex allergy also can be sensitive to food allergens. A number of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and cereals contain proteins that are similar to the proteins found in latex. A child's body can generalize an allergic reaction from one protein to another similar one (cross-reactivity). The following foods cross-react with latex: avocados, bananas, pineapples, apricots, grapes, kiwis, tomatoes, papayas, passion fruit, cherries, figs, peaches, nectarines, plums, celery, raw potatoes, hazelnuts, and chestnuts.

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