Can Poinsettia Plants Cause a Latex Allergy Reaction?
By Kevin J. Kelly, MD
During the holidays, doctors often receive phone calls from people with natural rubber latex allergy about allergic reactions to poinsettia plants.
The brilliant red poinsettia is one of the most common latex-producing plants in the world and it’s often used to adorn homes for the holidays. It comes from the family Euphorbiaceae, of which Hevea brasiliensis (the rubber tree) is also a member.
Little is published on poinsettia and latex allergy cross-reactivity. In the 1990s, research found there to be some cross reactivity with the latex proteins from these plants.
The latex is found within the plant’s circulation system. It’s not released until there’s a broken leaf or the plant is broken in some manner. Even in this case, a small leaf off the poinsettia plant that can be immediately wiped off the skin is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction.
In 2007, in the journal “Allergy,” an article written by Hajime Kimata, MD, describes anaphylaxis in two infants with latex allergy after they had direct contact with the leaves of poinsettia plants. An article in 2006 describes a patient who was hospitalized after developing a rash due to a poinsettia plant in the hospital room. It is unclear if the patients had direct contact to the plant.
In addition, some wonder if there is an allergy inhalation risk to poinsettia plants. It appears this is highly unlikely. It is difficult to identify a mechanism where there would be protein allergen carried in the air from a plant without a carrier vehicle (such as what has occurred with cornstarch powdered latex gloves).
Despite this minimal risk, I encourage latex-allergic patients to avoid or limit contact with poinsettia plants due to the remote possibility of an allergic reaction. It would be prudent for patients to not overreact to the presence of poinsettia plants, as they are likely to be safe.
Plants related to Hevea brasiliensis
|Hevea brasiliensis||Rubber Tree|
|Euphorbia splendens||Crown of Thorns|
|Acalypha wilkesiana||Jacobs Coat|
|Ricinus communis||Castor Bean|
|Acalypha hispida||Chenile plant|
Kevin J. Kelly, MD, is a board-certified allergist and immunologist in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.