Living With A Latex Allergy

Written By Alyssa McGee

When I found out I was allergic to latex I thought I had caught an STI. I was young, inexperienced, and although I was the “knowledgeable one” in my friend group about sex, I had never heard about latex allergies before. I remember the first time I used a condom – strawberry flavoured durex one by the way – it hurt more than any part of losing my virginity. The pain burned from the inside out like a horrific urinary tract infection. It left me shifting on my seat trying to find comfort, and made going to the bathroom a living nightmare. I spent a day in dire agony thinking I had an STI, as at the time it was the only reason I could think of for the burning sensation. In panic I told my mum about the pain (without mentioning the sex) and so she treated it as a thrush infection. In my case, that cleared up most of the pain, without having to reveal the truth. In the aftermath I wasn’t sure if it was the condom or the sex that had caused it, however my latex allergy was confirmed when someone tried to use liquid latex Halloween make-up and I broke out in a hot rash.

So, how do you know you’re allergic to latex?

As anyone who has an allergy to anything knows, symptoms can present differently in everyone and can be triggered in different degrees. While I am allergic to latex, I’ve only ever had reactions with condoms and liquid latex, never with medical gloves or external interaction. By being aware of symptoms, you’ll know what situation to avoid. Symptoms of a latex allergy include:

  • Inflammation
  • Burning
  • Swelling
  • Rash (Not just on the lady parts)

These symptoms can occur during or shortly after the use of a condom. If you experience anything such as: difficulty breathing, a rapid pulse, facial swelling or dizziness, contact your doctor or go to an emergency room at once. These symptoms could signal anaphylaxis, which requires emergency treatment. As well as that, anyone can develop a latex allergy from regular exposure so always be aware of your body.

I have been one of the many people to use ‘being allergic to latex’ as an excuse not to wear condoms. Admittedly I was young and naïve and my boyfriends did not want to deal with condoms, let alone finding latex free ones. As for the most part I was on birth control anyway, it wasn’t a huge concern to me then. It was only when I met my current boyfriend that the idea of latex-free condoms became a reality as I had been too embarrassed to suggest or even purchase them.

What are latex free condoms?

Firstly, I’m going to rule out a common myth, they are not made of sheep’s intestines! They are made out of a non-latex synthetic material (which differs slightly depending on the brand).

Here’s a list of the condoms I’ve found that are Latex Free in ‘Boots’:

  • Durex ‘Latex-Free’
  • Durex ‘Real-Feel’
  • All ‘Skyn’ brand condoms and lubes

We first tried Durex Latex-Free condoms, as they are allergen-free. I can’t say much other than they did the job. As I had had no real experience with condoms I didn’t think much about it. I can’t see or imagine any huge difference physically or feel wise between these condoms and any other brand.

I had heard about ‘Skyn’ condoms and loved their slogan: ‘Never go in without a Skyn’ (some practical advice to live by). When I found out all of their condoms were latex free, I was up for trying it and have to say they are the best. I’ve given one to a friend before and he’s even been amazed at the difference. Skyn condoms had a lot more sensation and their ‘intense feel’ condoms are the best of the lot.

I have yet to try, Durex ‘Real-Feel’ as it was only recently I discovered they were latex free, either way I’m so attached to Skyn condoms now I don’t know if I would risk the change.

While having a latex allergy is something to be observant of, it is not an excuse to avoid condoms, there’s plenty latex-free options out there. Here’s to hoping the Students Union can start providing them too…)