It is currently estimated that between 1 and 6 percent of the global population suffers from mild to severe latex allergies. A latex allergy, even one which is mild in nature, can be extremely inconvenient and affect daily life due to the increased presence of latex in everything from gloves to balloons. However, we’ve got some good news for you – due to the production process used, the 100% natural Talalay latex featured in Zonkd’s ultra-comfortable mattresses can in fact be safe to use without risking an allergic reaction. Now, even latex allergy sufferers can experience deep, peaceful high-quality sleep thanks to Zonkd!
The following guide discusses the origin and symptoms of latex allergies and thoroughly explains the actions Zonkd takes to make its mattresses safe for all users.
What is a Latex Allergy?
The term “latex allergy” is in fact somewhat misleading. Natural latex is a thick, white sap-like liquid which is excreted by the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). The “latex allergy” is not caused by the entirety of the material itself, but by a specific set of proteins which the liquid contains.
These proteins are designed to repel microbial attacks – in other words, prevent potential damage caused to the tree by mold, fungus, insects, and other natural dangers. In some cases, the “attack” behavior of these proteins can also take effect when they come in contact with human skin. As of 2017, scientists have identified 13 distinct proteins found in natural latex which are capable of causing allergic reactions in human.
What Causes a Latex Allergy?
While a latex allergy is something which humans can be born with, most recorded cases have been caused by sensitization, a process in which a person who experiences frequent higher than usual exposure to latex in their daily life gradually becomes intolerant to the substance. Latex sensitization does not usually occur through coming into physical contact with latex, but through breathing in small particles which the material gradually releases into the air via a phenomenon known as off-gassing.
Medical professionals are considered to be the sub-group of the human population which possesses the greatest risk of developing a latex allergy. It is estimated that 8 to 12 percent of medical professionals have at least a mild allergy to latex, compared to a mere 1 to 6 percent of the general population. This is due to the frequent and repeated use of latex gloves in hospitals and care facilities. When a latex glove is put on, it is usually “snapped” against the wrist of the wearer to ensure that it fits properly.
A large amount of microscopic particles are released into the surrounding air every time that a latex glove is “snapped”. Additionally, people suffering from conditions which require frequent surgeries, such as spina bifida, are also at high risk of developing a latex allergy due to a similar high exposure to latex gloves. However, in recent years, many hospitals have begun purchasing and using latex-free gloves to decrease associated risk of allergies.
Individuals who suffer from latex allergies may also develop allergies to various fruits which contain similar proteins to those found in the rubber tree. These include avocados, bananas, kiwis, papayas and melons. However, not everyone with a latex allergy will develop any or all of these fruit allergies (and vice versa) so it is recommended that concerned allergy sufferers seek official testing from a medical professional.
What are the Symptoms of Latex Allergy?
The majority of latex allergies are mild, and are collectively referred to as allergic contact dermatitis. This means that symptoms are usually triggered by the allergy sufferer’s skin coming into contact with latex. Symptoms are also primarily skin-based, and frequently include dry, red, itchy skin, hives, and swelling. Extended contact with latex, such as wearing latex gloves, can cause the allergy sufferer to develop blisters or welts. If latex comes in contact with the allergic person’s face, red, itchy, watery eyes can also be experienced.
Some latex allergies also manifest in the form of respiratory symptoms. These commonly include runny noses, coughing, sneezing, headaches, and sore throats. Prolonged exposure or more serious allergies can also cause shortness of breath, wheezing, and a tight feeling within the chest. These symptoms are primarily caused by inhaling off-gassed latex particles, and therefore most commonly manifest in medical facilities or other locations where latex gloves are used and “snapped”.
A very, very small percentage of latex allergy sufferers – estimated to be less than 1 percent of the global population – experience a risk of anaphylactic shock when touching or inhaling latex. Anaphylactic shock refers to an immediate, potentially fatal bodily reaction which occurs when exposed to an allergen. It usually involves a swift drop in the person’s blood pressure and a narrowing of the airways, making breathing difficult. Anaphylactic shock requires immediate medical treatment, and those at risk are recommended to carry a device for injecting the medication epinephrine, such as an EpiPen. Strict avoidance of the allergen is also recommended.
What Makes Natural Latex Mattresses Safe?
Based on the above information, it seems counter-intuitive that natural latex mattresses can be safely used by people with latex allergies. However, that is in fact the case. The processes used to cure and clean the latex successfully remove most or all of the proteins which can potentially cause allergic reactions.
Natural latex mattresses produced using the Talalay process, such as that used by Zonkd, remove these proteins more completely and thoroughly and are therefore considered the safest choice for allergy sufferers. First, the liquid latex is cured into a solid form by a process known as vulcanization. The high heat to which the latex is exposed during vulcanization successfully burns away a number of the allergy-causing proteins. Following its vulcanization and molding, Talalay latex is also subjected to a five stage freshwater washing process, in which water jets are repeatedly applied to wash away any residual soap, curing agents and proteins. In between exposure to the jets, the latex is squeezed to make sure that residual materials are removed even from deep within the product.
In addition, Talalay latex’s light, aerated, open-cell structure makes it difficult for proteins to become trapped within the cells of the finished solid material. Natural Talalay latex also does not experience off-gassing, so there is no risk of inhaling potentially harmful particles that may cause an allergic reaction while sleeping.
In contrast, the Dunlop process of mattress manufacture, while it does expose the liquid latex to high heat during vulcanization, does not include the washing process which so effectively removes allergy-causing proteins. In addition, the denser, sturdier Dunlop latex features a closed-cell structure, meaning that residual proteins can easily be trapped within the solid latex as it is cured and molded – and remain there even when the mattress is completed, sold, and slept on.
In addition to the removal of proteins which occurs during the Talalay process, the Zonkd mattress provides an additional layer of protection for allergy sufferers – literally! All latex is contained within the middle layers of the Zonkd mattress’s unique design. The top layer, which is closest to the sleeper, is made from a gel-infused memory foam. Memory foam, a synthetic polyurethane foam, contains no allergens and does not present any risk of allergic reaction. Read more about the one-of-a-kind structure of the Zonkd mattress here.
Those with latex allergies can take yet another precaution by utilizing a hypoallergenic mattress cover. Mattress covers are made from non-latex materials, such as cotton and wool, and can be zipped up to completely cover all four sides of the mattress and remove any risk of accidental contact between latex and skin.
If you believe that you are at risk of experiencing anaphylactic shock when coming in contact with latex, it is however still recommended that you seek the advice of a medical professional before purchasing a mattress which contains latex.
So good news, allergy sufferers! You too can experience a perfect, high-quality night’s sleep with Zonkd’s amazingly comfortable mattress. Contact Zonkd today to learn more about our mattresses and how you can purchase one – or as many as you need!