image of latex sap being tapped from rubber tree

Latex Mattresses: Can You Use One if You Have a Latex Allergy?

/ November 18, 2021

There are a lot of reasons to love latex mattresses. They're comfy and they come in a variety of firmnesses, which means almost everyone can find one that meets their personal sleeping needs. They last longer than many other types of mattresses. And they're made from a material that's natural, sustainable, and hypoallergenic.

But what if you're among the small group of Americans who are allergic to latex? Does that mean you can't safely sleep on a latex mattress or pillow? Not necessarily. Here's exactly what you need to know.

What is latex and what is a latex allergy?

Natural latex is made from the milky sap of the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). It's commonly used to make rubber gloves, condoms, rubber bands, some toys—and, of course, mattresses.

Natural rubber latex allergies affect up to 6% of the general population, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). Additionally, more than 60 plant-based allergens are present in latex.

Latex allergy symptoms are usually triggered when skin touches the material, but airborne particles are sometimes to blame. Per the AAFA, people with latex allergies usually have very sensitive immune systems. When they come into contact with latex, their immune system reacts as if the latex were a harmful substance.

It's also been found that repeated exposure to the substance can cause latex allergies, which is why healthcare workers who regularly use latex gloves are disproportionately affected.

Latex allergy symptoms

Latex allergy symptoms can range from a mild skin reaction to life-threatening anaphylactic shock if the allergy is severe. However, most commonly, people with latex allergies will experience the following symptoms:

  • Hives
  • Itchy, irritated skin
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Scratchy throat

If you're sleeping on a latex mattress and experience some of these symptoms, it may be time to visit an allergist to see if you have a latex sensitivity. 

Sleeping on a latex mattress with a latex allergy

Natural latex is hypoallergenic and resistant to mold, mildew, and dust mites. That means a latex mattress is a good option for allergy sufferers.

But what if you're allergic to latex itself? In most cases, you should be able to sleep on a latex mattress without any issues.

Here's why:

  • The latex foam used in mattresses is put through a thorough washing process during manufacturing. Most allergic reactions to latex happen when you come into contact with products that haven't been washed to remove the proteins responsible for allergies. 
  • You won't have skin contact with the latex in a mattress. Most allergic reactions result from the skin coming into direct contact with latex, something that doesn't typically happen with a latex mattress. Most latex mattresses will have a few layers of fabric between the sleeper and the latex itself. Plus, in over 35 years, there has never been a registered complaint with the Food & Drug Administration about the latex foam used in mattresses.

Types of latex found in mattresses

There are quite a few types of latex used to make latex products, but mattresses are primarily made out of two kinds: Dunlop and Talalay. These latex types are specifically formulated to reduce latex allergy symptoms and have excellent durability.  

Some mattress companies will use a blend of both Dunlop and Talalay latex in their mattresses, but others will use just one. 

Dunlop Latex is denser, firmer, and costs slightly less.

Talalay Latex is softer, plusher, and costs slightly more. 

Both are manufactured to reduce latex allergy-causing proteins and should be safe to use for those with latex allergies. 

Latex mattress alternatives

If you have—or think you might have—a latex allergy, there are some alternative mattresses for you on the market. The two most similar to latex foam mattresses are:

  • Synthetic latex mattresses
  • Memory foam mattresses

Synthetic latex mattresses

Synthetic latex doesn't come from the Brazilian rubber tree and thus won't cause the symptoms of a latex allergy, but neither will it have the benefits or durability of natural latex. Synthetic latex may also off-gas, emitting chemicals that can cause irritation in people with chemical sensitivities.

That said, it's a cost-effective alternative if you have a latex mattress allergy. You will get the same soft and luxurious feel while making sure you don't experience a flare of your latex allergy symptoms.

Memory foam mattresses

Memory foam is made without latex entirely and is mostly made up of high-density polyurethane foam. Although memory foam isn't a natural material, its dense structure doesn't allow dust mites and other allergens to penetrate. The denser the memory foam you choose, the better it will be at keeping away allergens. 

Just keep in mind that memory foam can off-gas. It's best to choose a memory foam mattress with certifications from OEKO-TEX or CertiPUR-US® to ensure the foams are free of chemicals that could irritate your allergies. If you're looking for a deeper, body-hugging latex alternative, then memory foam could be right for you. 

Check out Saatva's high-quality latex mattresses

Latex mattresses have tons of benefits, from their long lifespan to their luxurious and comfortable feel. And, you don't have to let your latex allergy stop you from enjoying a high-quality latex mattress. Our Zenhaven Latex Mattress is high-quality, pressure-relieving, and likely won't affect you if you have a latex sensitivity. 

Still unsure if latex is the right type of mattress for you? You can take our online mattress quiz to see which Saatva bed is your perfect match. 

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