Touring Walt Disney World with a Latex Allergy
If you’re one of the roughly 6% of the United States population who lives with a latex allergy, you might have concerns about the safety of a Walt Disney World vacation. While Disney does not have publicly-available information about this particular allergen, know that cast members and Guest Relations personnel will be happy to answer any questions you have on-site.
Below you’ll find information updated by AllEars reader Larry Heidenberg in 2008. We have made an effort to confirm this information in April 2020 and added information about MagicBands and restaurants, but know that things at Walt Disney World regularly change, so you will want to confirm everything yourself as well.
Please keep in mind that this information is not meant to take the place of any advice from your doctor or other health care professional. It’s our hope this article will increase your awareness and help minimize your chances of having an allergic reaction.
What is a latex allergy?
Latex, sometimes called “natural rubber latex” is a series of proteins that can cause allergic reactions ranging from swelling or itching of the hands to life-threatening reactions or even death. It is found in many products, ranging from virtually all non-mylar (those silver shiny) balloons to tires to even the elastic in most underwear.
Are people born with latex allergies?
According to research, no, people are not born with latex allergies. A person may develop an allergy to latex at any time during his or her life.
Who are some of the people most likely to have latex allergies?
There are two groups of people who are more likely to have or to develop latex allergies than others. The Mayo Clinic suggests early exposure to latex in a person’s lifespan may lead to a greater likelihood of developing an allergy. Kids who suffer from spina bifida seem to have a higher likelihood of having or developing latex allergies, for example, because of their frequent visits to the doctor.
The other group that is very likely to develop allergic reactions to latex includes anyone in health or medical professions (especially nurses, phlebotomists, and EMS personnel who use latex gloves regularly and are frequently changing gloves throughout the day.
What are the two types of latex allergy reactions?
There are two types of reactions. Type I reactions take place throughout the whole body and tend to be more likely to be life threatening. Type IV reactions usually occur only in the area where the body came into contact with the latex. So, a Type I reaction might cause you to break out in hives, to itch, and to have trouble breathing. A Type IV reaction might cause just some swelling in the hands that may be delayed even up to three days from the time that someone’s hands touched latex.
If I have a latex allergy, what should I have with me for my trip to Walt Disney World?
If you have a latex allergy, there are a few things that I would strongly recommend taking with you and carrying with you at all times during your trip to Walt Disney World.
First, if you are prescribed an Epi-Pen or other epinephrine auto-injector device by your physician, be certain to carry it with you at all times. Security will NOT cause you problems, but, to play it safe, carry either a copy of your prescription or make certain that your auto-injector is labeled with your name and the prescription information. This will also be useful when passing through security at any airport.
Also, consider taking with you one or two doses of over-the-counter Benadryl tablets/capsules. If your reaction is mild but you believe it might worsen, you can then, as recommended by your physician, take your Benadryl; if your reaction is severe, you can then use your auto-injector.
If you need to use your injector, I strongly urge that the guest or a member of the guest’s party contact the nearest cast member and have them request Reedy Creek Improvement District’s paramedics to come and check out the guest. I would also recommend that guests with latex allergies take a few pairs of latex-free gloves (vinyl or nitrile) with them. This way, if a situation occurs where the guest might need assistance and the responding individual (paramedic, EMT, or nurse) happens to only have latex gloves, the guest may provide them with safe gloves for use. Additionally, this can be used by the guest if there is a situation where the guest “must” touch something that they believe may be containing latex.
Cross Reactivity to Latex
People with latex allergies may have or develop reactions to certain other things that are chemically similar to latex. While there is no “absolute” list of things that someone with latex allergies must avoid, there are certain things that a lot of people with latex allergies do all seem to react to.
Foods that are likely to cause reactions:
Bananas, Kiwi, Avocado, Chestnuts, and in many (but not all) cases, Pineapple.
There are many other foods, ranging from mangos to shellfish to some spices, that a person with latex allergies might react to. Each person is unique and has to figure out, with the help of their physician, what their triggers are and what they should know to avoid for safety.
Latex gloves are used by some food service personnel. Additionally, it has been reported that on some rides, the lap bars are being checked by CM’s wearing latex (not vinyl) gloves. For someone allergic, this can be extremely serious and result in one of two equally unappealing, situations. In the first situation, the guest may notice it before getting on the ride and being forced to “chicken out” at the last minute; in the other case, it may result in the guest having a reaction during the ride, which, depending on the ride, can be life threatening as it is not always possible or safe for a guest to try to access and use their Epi-Pen during the ride itself (reported as occurring on Space Mountain; I cannot independently confirm this).
Amy Keen writes: I wanted to share our experiences from our trip Dec. 21-28, 2008. Every Disney-owned restaurant we visited was using vinyl gloves (including the confectionary counters). We were told repeatedly that Disney no longer uses latex gloves in food preparation at all, but we always checked at the individual restaurants to be sure. They were always very willing to go so far as to show us the glove boxes! 🙂
The one major disappointment we had was at one of our previous favorites, Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney. They unfortunately DO use latex gloves when they prepare their food. My main concern here was when we asked initially, we were told they didn’t use latex, so we thought we were safe, but before we ordered we happened to see the box of latex gloves on the counter. The manager confirmed that all their gloves are latex. So visitors need to be aware that staff members aren’t always aware of what they’re using. I thought others might want to be aware of this so they can avoid a problem at Earl.
Other Rides or things to be Careful Around Walt Disney World
Towel animals are fun and wonderful little “gift” that the great Mousekeepers at Walt Disney World resorts sometimes leave for their guests. There’s one minor thing that someone who is latex allergic must be aware of and careful about. Almost all towel animals created by mousekeeping will use at least one rubber band to hold it together. Often, that rubber band may be “hidden” in the folds of the animal. However, to the latex allergic person, that can be a tremendous danger. When you pick up the towel animal to admire it or move it from your bed/nightstand, you may accidentally come into contact with the rubber band and have a reaction.
Disney has at times said that they no longer have latex balloons on property. Unfortunately, this is mistaken. Disney’s balloon supplier does supply latex balloons in at least two cases. First, if you see anyone making balloon animals, until and unless proven otherwise, expect this to be a latex balloon. Additionally, one of the most beloved Disney souvenirs is a latex based balloon: the Mickey Mouse Head Balloon. The Mickey Mouse Head Balloon is a latex balloon shaped in the shape of Mickey’s head and then encased in a plastic “outer coating” balloon. However, there remain two main dangers with this. First, both the plastic outer balloon and latex inner balloon are exposed at the bottom to inflate both balloons. Additionally, it is unfortunately not uncommon for one or both of these balloons to burst releasing the latex into the air.
The one ride that might be of the most concern for two reasons would be Test Track at Epcot. First, the ride vehicles ride on tires that could potentially, be touched by the guest (though not something that is likely to occur, it is not impossible, especially if the ride breaks down and the guest must be evacuated off the ride). Additionally, the ride involves various tests, including heat and braking, that might result in the “burning” of the tires a little causing latex to be released into the air in certain sections of the ride. It is up to the guest to determine if they are EXTREMELY sensitive to these possibilities. If they are, they might be well advised to skip this ride entirely.
Abi comments: Just a tip to anyone with latex allergies: DO NOT BUY A RAIN PONCHO at Disney. We didn’t even think about it, we were just thinking of staying dry, and my son and I both broke out and started having breathing issues. Thankfully I carry our epi pens and Benadryl with me at all times! (6/07)
According to a response from the Disney Parks Moms Panel in August 2019, MagicBands do not contain latex.
Glove Use at Restaurants
According to crowdsourced information going back to 2008, Walt Disney World restaurants no longer use latex gloves in food preparation. However, you will want to confirm this at every establishment you frequent for meals or treats. Cast members should be willing, even, to show you the box from which the gloves come to provide added comfort.
Have you toured the World with a latex allergy? Send us your tips and information for inclusion here.
Many thanks to Larry Heidenberg, a Type I latex allergy adult, who gathered this important information.