What If You Have an Allergy to Condom?
There are many different types of allergies. You can experience allergy symptoms after eating something, spending time outdoors, doing housework, or even after having sex. If you do frequently develop itching out of nowhere after protected sex, you may have an allergy to condom.
What Are the Symptoms of a Condom-Induced Allergy?
This type of allergy usually causes a localized reaction, meaning the symptoms occur on areas of the skin that came into contact with a condom.
The symptoms may include redness, itching, hives, bumps, poison ivy-like rash, and swelling.
Severe systemic reactions are rare, but they are possible. According to experts, women are more prone to developing a systemic reaction, as the mucus membranes in the vagina tend to absorb allergenic proteins faster than the membranes on the penis.
Systemic allergic reactions may cause hives or swelling, all over the body, watery eyes, nasal congestion or discharge, scratchy throat, and flushing.
Anaphylaxis is the most severe type of a systemic reaction, and its life-threatening symptoms require an immediate treatment. The symptoms include swelling of the face, mouth and throat, difficulty swallowing, and difficulty breathing.
What Causes an Allergic Reaction to Condom?
Any type of condom may cause an allergic reaction, but latex-based ones are the most common allergy triggers. Latex allergy or latex sensitivity affects from 1 to 6 percent of the U.S. population.
In addition, an allergic reaction can be triggered by other substances found in the condom.
The symptoms can be localized or systemic (full-body). Systemic reactions are rare.
What Is a Latex Allergy?
Natural latex is a milky fluid containing proteins, sugars, oils, tannins, resins, alkaloids and other polymer microparticles, which is produced by some plants, such as rubber tree. This fluid is used in production of the natural latex rubber contained in condoms, gloves, mattresses, balloons, etc.
The proteins found in natural latex can induce allergies in some people. If you are allergic to latex, exposure to this substance will cause your immune system to release antibodies to fight the “invader”. Such a reaction often leads to inflammation, itchiness and other symptoms.
In many cases, a latex allergy affects people who are allergic to certain plant-based foods. Thus, proteins found in natural latex are structurally similar to those contain in avocado, banana, kiwi, passion fruit, tomato, potato, bell pepper, and chestnuts.
If you have an allergy to any of these foods, you are likely to react to latex products as well.
In most cases, a person develops an allergy to latex slowly, after several years of exposure to the allergen. According to statistics, healthcare workers are at a higher risk for a latex allergy. In the United States, this allergy affects up to 12 percent of American healthcare workers.
What Are the Other Potential Allergy Triggers?
If you are not allergic to latex, your symptoms may be caused by other materials, such as spermicides on the condom or even lubricants.
Some lubricated condoms, gels, and suppositories contain spermicides, whose most common active ingredient is known as nonoxynol-9.
Spermicide kills sperms, which is why doctors used to believe that it could prevent pregnancy and some of the sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, research shows that it doesn’t improve the effectiveness of a condom and it’s not effective against STIs.
What is more, according to experts, using spermicide frequently may result in the increased risk of getting HIV or another infection.
Most condom manufacturers are no longer using this material, there are still some spermicide-containing condoms on the market.
Another potential allergy trigger associated with sexual activity is a lubricant. Some of them may contain chemicals and preservative causing irritation and other skin reactions. Common irritants include glycerin, parabens, and propylene glycol.
These ingredients also increase the risk of bacteria overgrowth that can lead to bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection.
How to Prevent an Allergic Reaction?
In order to prevent allergy symptoms, a person needs to avoid the allergen. In case of latex allergy, you will have to avoid latex-containing condoms.
Despite the fact that latex is contained in most types of condoms, you can still find various alternatives. You can talk to your doctor about available option and inform your sexual partner about your allergy.
The most popular non-latex alternatives include: polyurethane condoms, polyisoprene condoms, as well as lambskin condoms.
Polyurethane condoms are made form plastic. These ones effectively protect against pregnancy and STIs. You can find male and female varieties.
Polyurethane condoms can keep the heat, and they are thinner than those made from latex, meaning they can feel natural.
However, polyurethane is not as stretchable as latex, so they may not fit and are more likely to break of slip off.
One of the advantages of using polyurethane condoms is that they are usually compatible with lubricants based on oil, petroleum, silicone or water.
If you decide to try a polyurethane condom, you may want to consider Trojan Supra Bareskin, which one of the most popular choices. This is a male condom that has only one standard size. Remember to check if it fits before using it.
Polyisoprene condoms are the newest alternative to latex protection. They are made from a synthetic rubber that is better than latex, when it comes to conducting heat, and it also stretches better than polyurethane. You can use then with silicone or water-based lubes.
In fact, some people prefer polyisoprene condoms to latex ones.
This type of protection is effective against pregnancy and STIs.
At the moment, you can only find polyisoprene condoms for men. If you want to try these, go for Durex Real Feel non-latex condoms or Skyn’s original condom.
Lambskin condoms existed long before the invention of latex protection. These are natural condoms based on the intestinal lining of sheep.
Lambskin condoms are considered provide increased sensitivity, and some people say they the condom can’t be felt.
These condoms can prevent pregnancy, but they don’t provide any protection against STIs. Besides, lambskin condoms are porous, meaning viruses can easily pass through them. Therefore, they are recommended for healthy, monogamous couples.
Today’s market only offers male lambskin condoms. If you are thinking to try one, Trojan’s Naturalamb can be an option. Make sure to check if it fits before using.
If latex is not the problem and your symptoms are rather caused by spermicide on the condom, you can prevent future reactions by simply switching to a regular latex condom. Avoid condoms labeled as “lubricated with spermicide”.
Finally, if the ingredients in your lubricant are to blame, experts recommend switching to a more natural product. This can reduce irritation and frequent infections.
Experts recommend natural alternatives based on vitamin E, aloe vera, sunflower seed, hibiscus and other natural ingredients.
Remember that natural lubricants may not be compatible with certain condoms or toys. Check the information provided on the packaging. If you have any doubts, you can also consult your doctor.
In order to avoid lubricants at all, choose non-lubricated condoms.
The Bottom Line
If you experience the allergic reaction or other abnormal symptoms for than a couple of days, you may want to visit a doctor. Persisting symptoms may indicate an infection or other underlying health condition.
To determine the cause of your symptoms, your doctor may conduct a physical examination or diagnostic tests. In case of a genital infection, a course of antibiotics can help. If you leave your symptoms untreated, you may develop more serious health problems.
If you don’t have any infection or related health condition, you will likely be referred to an allergist.