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Spermicide & Latex Allergies
Dr. Lisa Lawless, CEO of Holistic Wisdom
Clinical Psychotherapist: Relationship & Sexual Health Expert
Natural latex is made from the rubber tree and contains proteins known for triggering allergic reactions in some people. Their immune system mistakes these proteins as harmful invaders and releases antibodies to protect the body from them. This can create an allergic reaction with symptoms such as hives, inflammation, and more. However, it is rare to have a latex allergy; only 1-6% of people in the US have an allergy to latex.
In a 2002 study, it was found that 30-50 percent of people who have latex allergies are also allergic to foods that have similar proteins in them, such as bell peppers, tomatoes, avocado, bananas, kiwi, passion fruit, chestnuts, and potatoes. Also, see our related Autoimmune Disease & Sex Guide.
Latex Condom, Dental Dam & Diaphragm Allergies
When exposed to a latex condom, dental dam, or diaphragm, some people experience vaginal or rectal swelling, itching, and discomfort. When used with spermicide, it may be difficult to discern if latex or the spermicide is causing the allergic reaction.
Typically, a latex allergy will show up as contact dermatitis, a rash that occurs when the person touches latex if they have a mild allergy; however, more severe side effects can occur for those with an extreme allergy.
It is more common to have an allergic reaction to spermicides which can cause local skin irritation to the vulva, vagina, anus, rectum, and penis. You can try a different brand of spermicide should you have a reaction and experiment with a milder dosage of the nonoxynol-9 that most spermicides contain.
It should be noted that studies have shown that while spermicides help prevent pregnancy, they may increase the risk of contracting HIV and genital lesions, not to mention urinary tract infections (UTI), yeast infections, and bacterial vaginosis. Diaphragms may be used without spermicide, but you may have a higher rate of possible conception.
If you are using a latex condom, dental dam, or diaphragm, make sure you are not using an oil-based lubricant as it will cause the latex to degrade and tear open, causing issues with reliable birth control. Because they are a medical device, silicone diaphragms can be used with most lubricants as they are 100% medical-grade silicone. See our Ultimate Personal Lubricant Guide for a better idea of what can be used with different birth control and sex toy materials.
Alternative Materials To Latex
- For diaphragms, you can opt for latex-free rubber, non-porous medical grade thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) materials.
- Dental dams can be made with latex-free rubber or polyurethane plastic.
- Condoms come in polyurethane, polyisoprene, and lambskin options.