Latex fruit syndrome: The echos of genetics

Pamela L. Gay, Ph.D.
4 min readAug 9, 2020

When I was in 8th and 9th grade, whenever my parents wanted to buy my grandmother something to wear, I had to try it on. That was the age I stopped growing taller, and she and I were the same height. She was a slight women and I was a gangly teen. Thin is not the norm of my family, but as far back as I can remember, grandma was the exception due to allergies. When she was going to visit, finding foods she could actually eat was a trial. Wheat — no. Most fruits — no. Item after item could send her to the hospital, and as a child no one would explain to me what was wrong. She died of cancer when I was in 9th grade, when she was not yet 60 and I was 14.

Looking back from the perspective of adulthood, I see now that my grandmother had celiac disease that was complicated by a Latex allergy and Latex Fruit Syndrome. I had figured out the celiac disease years ago, but it took developing my own latex allergy in 2017 to understand that this slight women really just couldn’t find anything she could eat because she had latex fruit syndrome.

A bowl of forbidden fruits.

This blog post is the first in what will be a periodic series on my journey in figuring out how to live with a Latex Allergy and includes Latex Fruit Syndrome.

Allergies suck, and we live in a society where allergies cause many to roll their eyes and say “those aren’t real.” Others think that if something is wrong, it probably isn’t that bad, and you’re just being dramatic. It can be exhausting, and I’m writing this as I realize that for the rest of my life, I’m going to be that pain in the ass person who has to say, “Here is a sheet of paper listing all the ingredients I absolutely cannot eat.”

I am not slight like grandma anymore. I’m used to eating almost everything. This is all still new to me. Sure, I have a diary allergy, but it didn’t used to be that bad, and stress munching food is part of my identity.

Or at least it was.

Now … now I’m a bit afraid of food. I’m tired of itching.

From developing a basic latex allergy in 2017, when I started reacting to a respirator I had for painting, I have gone on to reacting to elastic in socks and underwear, to getting rashes from the iron-on designs on many of my T-shirts, and to developing Latex Fruit Syndrome. This last thing…

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Pamela L. Gay, Ph.D.

Astronomer, technologist, & creative focused on using new media to engage people in learning and doing science. Opinions & typos my own.