Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Latex Allergies

Here is an article I wrote a few years ago for a website that no longer exists (a few changes have been made):

If you experience itching, burning, rashes, or irritation of any kind right after or during sex you could very well have an allergy to the condoms being used. There are several possibilities of what you could be allergic to: the spermicidal lubricant known as Nonoxynol-9, fragrances, or latex. Experiment with different condoms to see what you are allergic to. The first two are easy enough to avoid; just don’t buy condoms with Nonoxynol-9 or those banana or orange flavored condoms, both very easy to find. All of these condoms will have about the same rate of efficacy. Latex, on the other hand, is a bigger issue.

What happens when you have an allergy to latex is that your immune system thinks that the latex is a dangerous substance and attempts to remove it from your body by giving you rashes or itching. Latex allergies develop over time so you might not have any issues at all for years and then one day it starts to itch and burn. About 7% of people develop a latex allergy.

There are two other materials that condoms are made of besides latex: lambskin and polyurethane. Lambskin is made from the intestines of a lamb. Yeah, I know gross, right? Well, don’t worry you shouldn’t use these. They are effective in preventing pregnancy, but because they have small pores in them they still let fluids pass through which carry HIV and other scary diseases.

Polyurethane, on the other hand, is made from plastic and has a slightly lower efficacy rate than latex. The problem is that polyurethane isn't as stretchy as latex so the condoms are made a bit bigger than the average latex condom. The reason this is an issue is because 1. they slip off more easily, which as long as you’re aware of this is easily preventable and 2. if your partner or dildo is on the larger side the condom is more likely to break, which is not as preventable unfortunately.

There are actually many people who are not allergic to latex who use polyurethane condoms because they actually have a lot of advantages. Polyurethane is thinner, transfers heat better, stronger, can be used with oil based lubricants, and doesn’t have an odor or taste. There are disadvantages as well; polyurethane is not as stretchy as mentioned earlier, they are more expensive, and they are harder to find.

The only two polyurethane condoms on the market in the US currently are Trojan Supra and Durex Avanti. There are a couple differences between these two brands. The Trojans are slightly smaller in size than the Durex, which is especially helpful if you are trying to avoid slippage. Trojans have Nonoxynol-9 and Durex do not, which is important if you’re also allergic to spermicide. Experiment with both and find out which works best for you.

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