I Am Allergic to a Condom- Excuse or Reality?
Dr. Renuka Dangare

Dr. Renuka Dangare

Jan 08Sexual health

I Am Allergic to a Condom- Excuse or Reality?

This article has been written by Dr. Renuka Dangare, compiled by Debayani Bose.

 

Yes, it's real! Condom allergies are real for folks with a latex allergy and are not just a poor excuse to avoid safe sex. It is estimated that 3% of the population is allergic to latex, and this is more common in people with vaginas. Nevertheless, this does not mean that having STI-free sex will be a bother. Let’s break down the how and why of latex allergies and the alternatives.

The various types of condoms available in the market today, differentiate from one another on the basis of thickness, flavour and material. The type of material your condom is made of, and the thickness of it will have a direct impact on your sexual experience.

Broadly talking about latex, it is a milky fluid that comes from the tropical rubber tree. Many of our everyday products contain latex, such as latex gloves (most commonly used by healthcare professionals), condoms, balloons, rubber bands and much more.

 

What is a latex allergy?

Repeated exposure to protein in natural latex can make you more likely to develop an allergy. If your immune system detects a protein, a reaction can start in minutes. Common latex allergy is largely our body’s physical reaction to certain proteins found in natural rubber latex. When you have a latex allergy, your body mistakes it for a harmful substance.

 

What does a Latex Allergy look like -

Depending on the source of your exposure and your individual sensitivity to latex, the allergy can present differently. Let’s look at some of them -

  • For most people who are sexually active, it could mean itching and a burning sensation after sexual intercourse. This sort of itching will happen every time you use a condom and may also occur after many years of using it.
  • The rash is most commonly noticed by the receiving partner and will disappear in a few hours.
  • Dental dams are also made of latex, so an allergic reaction may also develop when using a dam.
  • If you used latex gloves, then you could have skin redness, itching, or a rash. You could have itching around the mouth if you blow a balloon. In most cases, only mild latex allergy symptoms are seen.
  • In very, very rare cases, we see patients developing a more serious form of an allergic reaction such as watering of the eyes, sneezing, difficulty breathing, or anaphylaxis in extremely sensitive persons.

 

What else could it be?

  • Besides allergy to the original material, there are also additives to a packaged condom that you may be allergic to. Some condoms are covered by spermicide jellies, and they may be a potential source of irritation. You may also be allergic to the lubricant you are using. It is always a good idea to switch lubricants, especially if you haven’t had problems with a latex condom before.
  • Increased itching around the vagina can also be due to a yeast infection or any other vaginal infection. In that case, you can also have vaginal discharge and a foul-smelling vaginal odour.

  • Get yourself a visit to a gynaecologist if you think you are having an allergy or if you are experiencing symptoms of a vaginal infection.

 

condom allergy

Alternative and Solutions

In case you are experiencing a latex condom allergy, you can adopt a few alternatives made from plastic, synthetic rubber or natural products. The alternatives include Polyurethane condoms.

Polyurethane condoms: These condoms are made up of thin plastic instead of rubber. They offer similar levels of protection. However, they don’t fit as tightly as latex condoms and are more likely to slip off. When compared with latex condoms, polyisoprene condoms can stretch more.

Polyisoprene condoms: When compared with latex condoms, polyisoprene condoms are stretchier and offer similar levels of pregnancy and STD prevention. They also provide similar levels of protection against STDs. Brands such as Durex and Kamasutra have non-latex condoms making them easily available in the Indian markets.

Female condoms: Female condoms, also known as internal condoms, go inside the vagina or anus and are used during sex. Like other condoms, they help prevent STDs during sex and pregnancy and are easy to use. In the case of female condoms, a flexible, soft plastic pouch is inserted into the vagina with a flexible polyurethane ring coated with a silicone lubricant. It is important to remember that they cannot be reused.

Lambskin condoms: This is the only condom made of a natural animal product and doesn’t contain any of the proteins that cause latex allergy. It is made of sheep intestines. Lambskin condoms serve as an effective remedy against pregnancy as the tiny, porous holes in the condoms are big enough to allow viruses that cause STDs to pass through. One should only use Lambskin condoms if you’re not at risk of catching an STD.

 

If you’re in a committed relationship with your partner and have been tested free of STI, then feel free to use another form of contraception, such as an oral contraceptive pill or IUD.

 

The best treatment for latex allergy is to avoid it as there is no proven cure. Doctors usually prescribe antihistamines to treat latex allergy symptoms, such as an anti-allergy or anti-cold medication you find over the counter. In very rare cases, injectable epinephrine can be used to prevent anaphylaxis.

Disclaimer - This information is educational and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before making any dietary changes or adding supplements.

ProactiveForHer is a digital clinic for women, offering accessible, personalised, and confidential healthcare solutions. We offer out-patient care, diagnostic services and programs for various health concerns of Indian women, across their lifetime - from puberty to pregnancy to menopause.