Latex Allergies

This is a very long post about whether latex allergies can be caused by latex mattresses. I think the info will be useful to the forum. I also have some questions (mentioned at the end of the post) for the forum.

I am looking into getting a latex mattress but do have concerns about latex allergies. I do not have a latex sensitivity but would rather not acquire one. After considering the duration of exposure, I decided to do some investigating. I acquired the following articles from peer reviewed scientific journals about latex allergies and mattresses.

Below is a summary of what I found.

Many latex mattress companies claim the proteins have been washed out of their latex mattresses. Studies have confirmed that most proteins in latex extract are not present in mattresses and thus must have been washed out or denatured in the processing. However, some proteins were still present in all 4 natural latex mattresses that were tested. The amount of protein varied greatly. Two had more protein per gram than gloves (a known cause of latex allergies). Two had less. Unfortunately the processing method used when manufacturing the mattresses or even whether they were Dunlop or Talalay mattresses was not specified.

Not all proteins cause allergies. Although we know that proteins are present in latex mattresses, are any of them actually allergens? The studies found that the serum of only 3 out of 21 latex sensitive humans showed an immune response when mixed with the proteins in the mattresses that were tested. All 21 serums reacted with unprocessed latex extract. Thus most allergens (not just most proteins) had been removed or denatured during processing; otherwise all the serums would have reacted to the mattresses. It is important to note that, one of the reactive serums reacted to all 4 natural latex mattresses. Thus some latex allergens were still present in all the mattresses tested.

The reduced number of allergens in mattresses would probably reduce the chance of sensitization to latex and may also mean that even some people with latex allergies would not have a sensitivity to latex mattresses. Nevertheless there are still some latex allergens in latex mattresses. The question is do people actually become latex sensitized from latex mattresses in real world conditions. After all extreme extraction methods (freezing, crushing, and solvents) were used to obtain the results above and the extract was directly mixed with serum from the blood of latex sensitive people. This is very different than lying on a latex mattress where the allergens are bound up in a latex matrix, there are layers of fabric between you and the mattress, and no allergens are being injected into your bloodstream.

Clearly it is possible to get latex allergies from real world exposure to latex without the extreme conditions in the studies. After all tens of millions of people have latex allergies. However, most of these people (medical workers, workers in the latex industry, people who have had multiple surgeries – especially at young ages) have had very unusual types of exposure to latex. For instance, latex gloves used by medical workers cause allergies primarily because the latex proteins attach to the powder in the gloves and become airborne and inhaled when the gloves are removed. This bypasses the protection of the skin. Also, people working in the latex industry are exposed to the raw latex extract which contains far more allergens than latex products. Furthermore manufacturing puts the latex through mechanical and thermal processes that could cause the allergens to become airborne. Having surgeries involve contact with surgical gloves inside the body. This bypasses all the body’s defenses against allergens, vastly increasing the potential for an allergic response. These are all unusual methods of contact with latex. They do not seem applicable to a latex mattress where the latex itself is rarely touched. Thus the question still remains, is it possible to get allergies from mattresses simply by sleeping on one for a long time.

To my knowledge there has only been one study that looked into whether latex mattresses in real world conditions actually cause latex allergies in humans (not just serum in test tubes). At the age of 3 years, having slept on a latex mattress did not affect whether a child developed a latex allergy. 3 years is not a huge period of time and very young children are different than adults so I do not know how applicable this study is to an adult sleeping on a latex mattress for 20 years. However, it should be noted that nearly 7% of the children did develop latex allergies. The number was simply the same for the ones who slept on latex mattresses as is was for the ones that did not. Thus the children were quite capable of developing latex allergies from other sources, but not from mattresses. Also, generally speaking, the younger you are the easier it is to get sensitized to anything because the immune system is still developing. Thus the study may apply to the general population.

It is also important to consider that the fact is that we are all exposed to allergens every day. They are in the air we breathe and what we eat and drink. Latex is common in day to day life (household gloves, erasers, elastic in underwear, pacifiers) and these items also contain latex allergens. If simple exposure caused allergies in most people, then everyone would have latex allergies. Obviously if lots of people who slept on latex mattresses became sensitized to latex proteins as a result, modern medicine would be aware of it.

Nevertheless, there is a risk that a small percentage of people who sleep on latex mattresses could develop a latex sensitivity from it. A small percentage would not be obvious and would not attract attention. The only way we would know about it was from studies or individuals who it happened to posting their experience on the web. I was unable to find any studies, except for the study on young children mentioned above, that attempted to correlate sleeping on a latex mattress with latex allergies. I heard that the FDA has a list of products that have been reported to cause latex allergies. I was unable to find any such list on the FDA’s website. By searching the FDA’s website, I was also unable to find any mention of mattresses causing latex allergies. By searching the web, I was unable to find any report of a person becoming latex sensitive from a latex mattress. By looking on the American Latex Allergy Association’s website I was able to find only one report of a person (Molly) having a sensitivity to a latex mattress. However, this person was latex sensitive before purchasing the latex mattress. This is interesting in that it suggests that latex allergens are able to escape from the latex mattress and interact with a person’s immune system. However, I am very hesitant to draw conclusions from one example. It could be that the person became exposed to another allergen (new bedding or pet) or a chemical (paint or a chemical used in the processing of the mattress) at the same time they bought the mattress. This other substance could have caused the problem rather than the latex allergens. I would really need more examples to draw conclusions with much confidence.

From all the above my best conclusion is that sleeping on a latex mattress does not cause sensitization to latex. I am uncertain whether people with latex sensitivities can sleep on one, but would urge caution.

My questions for the forum are:

Does anyone know if the FDA does actually keep a list of products that have been reported to cause latex allergies and if so where this list can be found?

Does anyone know of any real world reports of anyone actually becoming sensitized to latex from sleeping on a latex mattress?

Does anyone know of any real world reports (other than the report mentioned above) of anyone who is already sensitized to latex having an allergic reaction of any sort from sleeping on a latex mattress?

Does anyone have any other info about latex allergies that would be a useful addition to this post?

I can’t answer your questions but wanted to let you know that the work and thought you put in for this article is very much appreciated. Latex allergy? Obviously it exists but is probably so rare that it is considered a non-factor. I ordered a latex mattress today so we shall see.

Hi Ty,

Thanks for posting the links :slight_smile:

As you know from your research (and the links you posted as well) most of the hundreds of pages of information online about latex allergies (and most of the concern as well) is with medical equipment … and particularly latex gloves … and there is not a great deal of information (or concern) with latex foam at least for people who don’t have a type I latex sensitivity (in which case all natural latex should be avoided).

As you also mentioned … most of the surface proteins that are responsible for most latex allergies have been substantially (but not completely) removed from latex foam.

Other causes for concern with latex allergies are powdered gloves (the allergenic proteins can bind with the powder and become an aerosol in the air and contact mucous membranes) and some of the chemicals used to manufacture both natural rubber and synthetic rubber (mainly the accelerants) which are apparently the cause of the skin sensitivity or type IV sensitivities.

A couple of the hundreds of online articles that are particularly good and very informative (even though they deal more with gloves or other latex medical equipment) are here and the following attachment from the Premier

There is also much more information and links to thousands of articles at the OSHA website and the FDA website and the CDC website.

ADMIN NOTE:Removed 404 page link | Archived Footprint:

The only reporting mechanism I know of is the
FDA medwatch program but this is more focused on medical devices and equipment.

In all my conversations with retailers and manufacturers … I have only ever encountered one report that was clearly a latex allergy reaction (with a Dunlop latex mattress).

It’s rather remarkable to me that in all the online and anecdotal information available, there are almost no reports of latex allergies regarding mattresses.


Thanks for your kind response to my post. Good luck on your latex mattress. I will probably be ordering one as well.

Hi Phoenix,

Thanks for your reply. I was unable to find any evidence of sensitization to latex from mattresses on the links you provided. That fact and your comment about only encountering one report of a clear latex allergy are very useful. I do not know how many people have slept on a latex mattress for a significant period of time. However, I suspect the number is in the millions or tens of millions. If you have any info on this please let me know. If we assume 10 million and if latex mattresses caused latex sensitization in even 1% of the people who slept on them, 100,000 people would have been sensitized by them. It would seem like we would be able to find many reports of it. As you mentioned the lack of reports is remarkable. It makes me more confident that it is very rare for latex mattress to cause latex allergies.

The fact that the one example of latex sensitization you are aware of was from a Dunlop mattress is interesting. My knowledge of latex processing is limited. However, it seems the Talalay is washed more than Dunlop for reasons that I do not understand. Please let me know whether this is true. This would suggest that more allergens, particularly the ones not well bound into the latex matrix and thus more able to escape from the mattress, would be washed out. It is only one example, but interesting.

I was unaware of the extent to which many “latex allergies” are actually reactions to chemicals added to the latex. This makes the “chemicals in mattresses” issue loom larger. I will have to investigate it.

Hi Ty,

Both Dunlop and Talalay latex are washed with clear water (I don’t know the details of how many times each manufacturer washes their latex but it is a part of all latex manufacturing) but I think that any difference between the types of latex would be because there is more 100% natural Dunlop in the market while most Talalay is a 30% natural and 70% synthetic blend and the surface proteins that cause the true latex allergies are not in synthetic latex.

As you mentioned if it was an issue there I would also think that there would be many more reports from the millions of latex mattresses that have been purchased over the decades than there are. A sample size of one is not meaningful (that’s one out of the people I have talked to not one out of the total of latex mattresses sold) so it would be more chance that it happened to be Dunlop than a meaningful “statistic”.


Thank you for this interesting thread with many informative links. I have read most of them.

I have a long-standing latex allergy, which I believe is Type IV (contact dermatitis). Here’s a descriptive link:

Our choice to purchase a latex mattress was based on what we perceived as drawbacks to inner spring mattresses and the extreme comfort of latex. And, more importantly, the evidence that allergic reactions to latex mattresses appears to be extremely rare.

Our latex arrived in mid-October (2013) at about the same time as cold & flu season hit :frowning: I had an acute upper respiratory infection that began the same week. This didn’t seem out of the ordinary as many others in our household shared similar symptoms. Fast-forward about four weeks and I’m continuing to have (what I believe is) allergic rhinitis. Here’s another link:

Latex allergy is one of the factors that I will be investigating. Other items on my “differential” list include: indoor humidity, dust, possible food triggers, and other sleep system components (wool).

My current plan is:

#1) Test humidity with a hygrometer. (Has anyone ever used these?)
#2) Hire someone to do a thorough cleaning
#3) Embark on allergy elimination diet
#4) Sleep at my in-laws for 3-4 nights

Any suggestions are welcome! Let me say that I LOVE our new mattress and I’m really hoping that it isn’t a factor in my symptoms. Now it’s time for me to play scientist :blink: **

**Our latex is currently uncovered. Our mattress cover is scheduled to arrive Wednesday from SleepEZ. I’m optimistic that encasing it will also help.

Hi buttercupbetty,

There are specific tests that your doctor can perform to test for latex allergies including blood tests for type 1 allergies and skin tests that also test for the chemicals that are used to make the latex because this is the most common cause of the contact allergies/sensitivities … not the actual latex itself.

If there are small particles or latex dust in the latex from cutting that are connected to the rhinitis then a cover would probably help and I’ve also seen a number of instances where a dust mite cover with small micron sized pores solved similar issues as well. Of course the dust mite cover would also solve other causes of allergic rhinitis (such as dust mites) so if it was successful then you wouldn’t know for certain whether it’s connected to the latex or other potential causes of rhinitis that the cover was preventing.


One way to determine whether the mattress is causing the allergy is to encase it an impermeable plastic mattress encasement and sleep on it. You will also need to clean the room and bedding and air out the room to get rid of any alleged latex particles. An impermeable mattress encasement is a moisture problem so it is probably not an ideal long term solution. However, if your symptoms clear up in a few days and then come back when you remove the encasement, it is probably the mattress.

Please let the forum know if it does turn out to be an allergy since that would be useful for future mattress shoppers. If it is a latex allergy you might be able to reduce or eliminate it with a dust mite mattress encasement. Although breathable, they do block a lot of small particulate matter and they might work for a latex allergy. It is hard to know without knowing the size of the alleged latex particles. Look for an encasement with the smallest pore size.

I had forgotten about that. Do you think it’s important to know whether or not I have a (serologically) diagnosable Type 1 latex allergy? As opposed to going on my symptoms?


What do you think of this cover?

I don’t really like it (too hot). But I could try your suggestion of sleeping on it for 3-5 days…

Hi buttercupbetty,

Based on your symptoms and description it appears to me (a layman) that it’s more likely that you would be type IV but of course type 1 can be much more serious so it certainly can’t hurt. If you have any doubts I would personally get tested on the assumption that it’s better safe than sorry. They often do both tests together with the blood test first just in case it’s a type 1 allergy which could lead to a reaction with the skin test series.

I’m not Ty of course but this cover is a “membrane” type which has a pore size of 0 microns so no particles would get through it. There is a little more about allergy encasements and pore sizes in post #2 here.

The membranes wouldn’t protect against any offgassing (they are vapor permeable) and to protect against this you would need a clear polyethylene plastic cover in the range of 5 mil or thicker (clear polyethylene is non toxic) but in your case it’s the particles that are probably most important and as Ty mentioned the polyethylene would not be breathable at all and would likely cause temperature regulation issues as well as trapping any moisture in the mattress.



I left a message for my doctor. I will request the blood test. Since I have reacted to latex products (like gloves, bandaids, etc.) for 25 years, does it seem necessary to perform a skin test also?

Just trying to be conservative here :wink: I’ll do some more reading. Can a Type IV allergy lead to a more serious Type I? I certainly wouldn’t want to sensitize myself toward a more severe allergic response.

Thank you!

Hi buttercupbetty - I don’t know enough to answer your questions, but I do know enough to think it’s a good idea to consult your doc about the possible problem. Doc will probably have own ideas about what tests should be run.

I agree. My doctor stays very current on the medical literature and I’m sure he’ll have a recommendation for me.

Hi buttercupbetty,

I was actually thinking of a completely impermeable plastic encasement. I would prefer that to a bedbug or dust mite encasement for allergy testing purposes. The reason is that as Phoenix pointed out, it could be chemicals that are causing the problem and chemicals can pass through dustmite encasements. With a completely impermeable plastic encasement no air is getting through. They are also cheaper than dust mite encasements.

The easiest way I know of to find this is to get a mattress bag. They are easily found online using the term “mattress bag”. They are used for moving and you can also get them at places like U-Haul and home depot. As Phoenix mentioned, make sure you get one that is thick enough so it won’t tear. I looked briefly and found ones that were 3mil thick

However, I could only find the 5 mils in bulk orders. Perhaps Phoenix knows where to get 5 mils.
Phoenix brings up an important point about trapping moisture inside the mattress. You might want to air out the mattress before you encase it. After you get the bag around the mattress make sure there are no loose areas with air in them. Then seal the open end with moving tape or duct tape. Be forewarned that sleeping on one will have drawbacks. They do not breathe at all (like sleeping on a waterbed – the old fashion bag of water without all the covering foam). I am not certain but it might make noise when you move which could be annoying. But for 3-5 days of testing it should be bearable.

Good luck,

Hmmm…are you saying that I need to get a 5mm bag? :dry:

I’m kinda confused. I like the price on this one:

Hi buttercupbetty,

[quote]Hmmm…are you saying that I need to get a 5mm bag? :dry:

I’m kinda confused. I like the price on this one:

If you want to eliminate all the possibilities then clear polyethylene would be the only thing I know of that would stop anything from escaping. The membrane type encasements would stop all particulates.

If you decided to go with the polyethylene … if it was for the long term (such as someone that needed to sleep with the plastic to prevent offgassing or chemical leaching over a long period of time) then 5+ mil would probably be best and you can get a 6 mil wrap from here or from a building supply store such as home depot in sheets of 10’ x 25’ for about $25 and you would need to seal the edges. If it was only for a short term such as you are considering then a mattress bag that was 3 mil or so (which is about the thickest that is commonly available that I’ve seen) would probably be fine.



Doesn’t it make sense to eliminate one variable at a time? As you said, if my mattress IS the issue, then it could be the latex particles OR the chemical additives. If I use the cover I currently own:

it would block latex particles, right? It would NOT block VOCs, though. If this “test” doesn’t work (and I still have symptoms), then we could buy a thicker, impermeable mattress bag.

However, if serology tests show a Type 1 latex allergy, then I’m guessing it’s “game over” and we sell the bed. Do you agree? I don’t think you’re recommending that we sleep on impermeable vinyl for the long term, right?

**Personal update: I slept in our guest bed last night and was able to breathe through my nose. Which is great :cheer: Except that it is pointing my suspicion to my wonderfully comfortable latex mattress :angry:

Thanks again for all your help deciphering this, Phoenix & Ty. I realize that neither of you are doctors (as far as I know) and I certainly will follow medical advice as to how I proceed.

Hi buttercupbetty,

[quote]I left a message for my doctor. I will request the blood test. Since I have reacted to latex products (like gloves, bandaids, etc.) for 25 years, does it seem necessary to perform a skin test also?

Just trying to be conservative here :wink: I’ll do some more reading. Can a Type IV allergy lead to a more serious Type I? I certainly wouldn’t want to sensitize myself toward a more severe allergic response.[/quote]

There is a good brief overview here about the three types of reactions that can be connected to latex.

As far as I’m aware … irritant contact dermatitis (which comes from rubbing skin irritation and from moisture not to the actual chemicals in the latex or the latex itself) can sometimes lead to a type IV allergy (to the chemicals in the latex) particularly in atopic individuals (people who tend to develop allergies). Since neither irritant contact dermatitis or type IV allergies are to the latex itself neither one leads to a type I allergy. Many people with type I allergies however experienced Type IV symptoms as a precursor to the more typical symptoms because the dermatitis can compromise the skin and result in the latex proteins entering the body. This is why it’s a good idea to rule out an actual latex allergy with type IV symptoms.

If the allergy is to the actual latex proteins (type I) … then the symptoms can be progressive and any natural latex should be avoided in all forms (not just in mattresses). Synthetic latex doesn’t contain the same proteins as natural rubber. In some very severe cases of type I allergy (as an example) people who eat in restaurants would be at risk if the food was prepared by staff who were wearing rubber gloves. This would be very rare.

The thing that would make me cautious in your case is that the symptoms are nasal. If you are inhaling particles and they are irritating the mucous membranes then it could be either the chemicals in the latex or the latex itself.

For now since it’s most likely that particles are the issue (rather than any offgassing) and since you already own an encasement that won’t permit particles to go through it that’s where I would start to see if it makes a difference with your symptoms.

I would also think that the mattress cover would make a difference as well.

Overall though … I would go with your doctor’s advice and if I was experiencing nasal symptoms I would want to rule out an early stage type I allergy.