Latex allergies received a great deal of recognition between the years of 1988 and 1992 when 15 deaths came about, along with over 1,000 other reports of adverse health effects due to exposure to latex. Current estimates, according to the United States Department of Labor: Occupational Health and Safety Administration (otherwise known as OSHA), are that 8 to 12 percent of healthcare workers suffer from some degree of latex sensitivity.
Allergies are a notable concern before buying a latex mattress. However, the good news for you is that having an allergic reaction to a natural latex mattress is largely a negligible concern. It is very rarely a problem for most people due to the way latex mattresses are constructed.That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise due diligence ahead of your purchase, but it does mean that there are processes in place that remove the bulk of risks to consumers.
Infographic by LatexMattress.org
Latex allergies are touch-based allergies (the exception to this would be in the case of medical gloves where cornstarch is often used to make it easier to put on and remove the gloves – when the gloves are snapped, these latex contaminated corn starch particles become airborne and can cause reactions when inhaled). Your skin has to come in contact with latex before you would have a reaction to the latex. Latex mattresses are wrapped in wool and then sealed in an additional layer of cotton ticking, which is a thick cotton fabric common in covering mattresses and pillows. This is an added layer between skin and latex.
If you are concerned about a potential allergic reaction, the best choice, as always, is to seek medical advice from an allergy specialist before purchasing a latex mattress. However, most people with mild latex allergies will never have a problem from latex mattresses, and therefore can experience all the worthy benefits of sleeping on a natural latex mattress. Natural latex is after all, hypoallergenic, and one of the best mattresses for allergies in general.
People with severe allergic reactions to latex might do better to err on the side of caution despite all the safeguards in place. It’s too great a risk in cases such as these.
Why are the makers of latex mattresses so confident that their mattresses will not trigger allergic reactions in people who suffer from latex allergies? In addition to the fact that skin-to-skin contact isn’t likely at all with these mattresses, there is a washing process the mattresses go through that removes the proteins that cause allergens. Latex foam mattresses are made using an open-cell structure as opposed to the closed-cell structure of more elastic products such as latex gloves. This open-celled construction allows the foam latex to work as a sponge during the many washing processes the foam goes through in the creation process. The water is then drawn into all the mattress’ voids before being completely removed — effectively washing out, or removing, most if not all of the allergy-triggering latex proteins in the mattress.
Another part of the process that eliminates further worry and concern of possible remaining allergen-causing proteins in a natural latex mattress is that the latex foam core goes through another process called vulcanization, where it is exposed to high heat. Any remaining allergen-causing proteins are not expected to survive this heat.
It’s comforting to note also, that there has never been a reported and verified case of someone being allergic to a natural latex mattress. While there may be scattered anecdotal evidence, this fact alone speaks volumes to the low-risk nature of allergies to natural latex mattresses.
For added peace of mind, you may want to consider ordering a sample of the actual natural latex foam that is used to make the bed you’re interested in purchasing. Then you can have it tested by an allergy specialists before you make your investment, and without losing a single night’s sleep once you make your purchase – at least as a result of latex allergies or concerns about them.
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