Why Does My Latex Allergic Child Need to Avoid Bananas?

Published: April 10, 2013

Q. We’ve just learned that my daughter is latex allergic. 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 natural rubber 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 who are latex allergic might have an allergic reaction to one of these plant foods, especially fresh fruits, which is why this is called “latex-fruit syndrome.” Studies have found the cross-reaction with banana to be fairly common.

However, in the syndrome, what’s not always clear is whether the sensitization to latex comes before or after the onset of allergy to one or more of the fruits.

That reaction risk is the reason avoidance of these fruits and vegetables is standard advice for people who are latex allergic.

Dr. Sharma is an allergist, clinical researcher and associate professor of pediatrics. He is Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C. and Director of the Food Allergy Program. He co-authors “The Food Allergy Experts” column in Allergic Living e-magazine.

Related: Why does raw fruit bring on an allergic reaction?

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.

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