Poinsettias May Be Pretty, But ...

They're a threat to some people with latex allergies

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MONDAY, Dec. 22, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- If you're allergic to rubber latex, you might want to be careful around all those Christmas poinsettias.

A study by Medical College of Georgia (MCG) researchers found about 40 percent of people with a rubber latex allergy were also allergic to poinsettias. Latex allergies affect about 8 percent of the general population.

"Since poinsettia and latex share several proteins, this may have significant implications for individuals with immediate-type latex allergy," study author Dr. Peter Ranta, of the MCG Section of Allergy and Immunology, says in a prepared statement.

Those immediate-type reactions include hives, wheezing, itchy/runny nose, throat-closing and a drop in blood pressure.

Latex is a generic term for the milky substance inside plants.

"We had some very anecdotal evidence that people who were allergic to the rubber plant latex might also produce an allergic reaction to the poinsettia latex. Since some latex-allergic people start to have skin itching when they are in the same room as a poinsettia plant, we realized that this connection may be important," Ranta says.

He and his colleagues found two common allergen proteins in rubber latex and poinsettias. These same proteins have been linked to banana, kiwi and chestnut allergies.

The study was presented at the recent annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about latex allergy.

SOURCE: Medical College of Georgia, news release, December 2003


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