Latex Mattress Allergies: What You Need to Know

By Marissa Merkt

Jun 24th, 2022

Just as it’s important to be aware of your allergies when you dine at a restaurant, it’s also important to keep them top of mind when shopping for a new mattress. Mattresses are made from a variety of materials, including latex, a known allergen.

A latex allergy is when an individual’s immune system overreacts to specific proteins found in natural rubber latex after exposure. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, less than 1% of the U.S. population have this type of allergy. In this guide, we’ll answer frequently asked questions about latex mattress allergies, including whether you can sleep on a latex mattress if you have this type of allergy.

How Do I Know if I’m Allergic to Latex?

As with any other allergy, finding out if you’re allergic to latex occurs from exposure during an allergy test. If you suspect you may be allergic to this material, you can participate in a skin test where a doctor will inject a small amount under your skin to see if bumps develop. Some common symptoms of latex allergies include:

  • Coughing
  • Itching
  • Forming of rashes
  • Running nose
  • Swelling
  • Sneezing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Watering in eyes
  • Wheezing

Latex allergies are common in those with Spina bifida or a defect in their bone marrow cells. There also are some correlations with those allergic to certain foods, such as kiwi, bananas, and carrots. Healthcare professionals who frequently come in contact with latex, via gloves, can become more sensitive or allergic to latex over time.

What are the Different Types of Latex Allergies?

There are three different types of latex allergies, which include the following: 

Irritant Contact Dermatitis

The lowest level of latex allergies is irritant contact dermatitis, which occurs when you have repeated exposure to chemicals found in this type of product. For instance, if someone wears latex gloves often, they may notice dryness or burning in their hands. Reactions typically occur 12 – 24 hours after exposure.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis is a delayed reaction to the additives applied in latex processing. Reactions are similar to those with irritant contact dermatitis but typically more severe. Those with this type of allergy tend to have it longer and may experience it spreading to more parts of the body. Reactions may occur 1 – 4 days after exposure.

Immediate Allergic Reaction

Also known as latex hypersensitivity, an immediate allergic reaction is the most serious type of latex allergy. It can be life threatening, as it causes difficulty breathing. Other symptoms include hives, severe itching, rapid heartbeat, and low blood pressure.

Can I sleep on a latex mattress if I’m allergic to latex?

Whether you can sleep on a latex mattress when you have an allergy to latex depends on how severe your reactions are. Since many mattresses only contain this rubber substance in the core, those with allergies can still enjoy the benefits of latex mattresses without coming in direct contact with it. 

Mattress companies often use 100% natural latex, such as Talalay, which doesn’t produce similar allergic reactions to other latex products since the proteins are removed during the manufacturing process. To be extra safe, you can use a mattress cover to keep your body away from the mattress. However, if you have severe latex allergies, you may want to consider a mattress made from a different material, such as memory foam to avoid experiencing negative effects. Consider consulting your doctor before buying a latex mattress if you have a history of reactions.

Related: Dunlop vs Talalay Latex: What’s the Difference?

What should I do if I have a latex allergy reaction?

Currently, there’s no known cure for latex allergies, but a physician may prescribe you an antihistamine or steroid to help alleviate your symptoms when a reaction occurs. Those with irritated skin can also use corticosteroid medications, hydrocortisone cream, and calamine to relieve discomfort.

People with severe reactions may need to keep an adrenaline injector, or epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) on them for when reactions occur. If you have a latex hypersensitivity reaction, you may need to call 911 immediately or seek the nearest emergency room for treatment.

What are some alternatives to latex mattresses for someone with a latex allergy?

If you have a latex allergy but want to buy a mattress with a similar feel and durability, consider one made from a polyurethane foam. Known as “latex replacement foams,” these are great options for those trying to avoid the material due to allergies. Some polyurethane foam options include Avena and Energex.

Related: Best Memory Foam Mattress

Q.

Can a latex mattress cause allergies?

A.

There is a slight risk that sleeping on a latex mattress for a long period of time can cause you to develop a latex sensitivity, just as someone can develop any other type of allergy when exposed to allergens. However, most won’t have an allergic reaction since the latex used in mattresses goes through a rigorous washing process, which removes the proteins that people are often allergic to. The latex in mattresses often is covered by other layers or mattress covers so there is no direct skin contact with it.

Q.

Can I sleep on a latex mattress if I'm allergic to latex?

A.

Determining whether you can sleep on a latex mattress when you’re allergic to latex depends on how severe your allergy is. Those with mild symptoms would likely be ok but if your symptoms are severe, you may want to avoid this type of mattress. Consider consulting with your doctor or an allergist before buying a latex mattress.

Q.

What are the best latex mattress alternatives?

A.

Polyurethane foam mattresses are a great alternative for those with latex allergies that want a similar feel of a latex mattress.