Latex Allergies and Latex Mattresses: What You Need to Know
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 is 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 what you need to know.
What is latex?
Natural latex is made from the milky sap of the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). It is commonly used to make rubber gloves, condoms, rubber bands, some toys—and, of course, mattresses.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 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.
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.
What is a latex allergy?
Up to 6% of the population in the U.S. has a latex allergy, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). A latex allergy occurs when someone either comes into skin contact with latex or breathes in latex fibers in the air. Per the AAFA, people with latex allergies have very sensitive immune systems. When they come into contact with latex, their immune systems react as if the latex were a harmful substance.
Latex allergies can develop from repeated exposure to the substance, which is why healthcare workers who regularly use latex gloves are disproportionally affected. Certain populations, such as people with spina bifida, are also more likely to be allergic to latex.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, people with latex allergies often have certain food allergies as well. You may also experience allergic reactions to apples, avocados, bananas, carrots, celery, chestnuts, kiwis, melons, papayas, raw potatoes, and tomatoes.
A diagnosis can be made via an allergy blood test. Doctors advise those with severe latex allergies to carry an epinephrine auto-injector for emergency treatment. If you have a latex allergy and must wear gloves for work, experts recommend you, and your colleagues, switch to synthetic gloves.
Can you sleep on a latex mattress if you have a latex allergy?
Natural latex is hypoallergenic and resistant to mold and dust mites. That means a latex mattress is a good option for anyone with allergies.
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.
- The latex foam used in mattresses is washed repeatedly during the manufacturing process. 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. Unlike with some products, like rubber gloves, balloons, and condoms, the latex foam used in mattresses is washed multiple times to remove these proteins. The Talalay method of producing latex (the way our Zenhaven mattress is made) specifically puts the latex core of the mattress through a five-stage washing process, during which most of the latex particles that cause allergies are washed away.
- Your skin is never in direct 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. Zenhaven, for instance, has a layer of organic New Zealand wool and an organic cotton cover in between the sleeper and the latex itself.
What's more, there has never been a registered complaint with the FDA about the latex foam used in mattresses.
Try Our Latex Mattress for a Cool, Comfortable Night's Sleep
The bottom line: Latex mattresses are generally considered safe for those with latex allergies because the proteins that cause allergic reactions are washed away during the manufacturing process. But if you have severe sensitivities, you should consult your doctor before buying a latex mattress. If it turns out latex mattresses could be risky for you, there are many other great mattress options to choose from.