It’s unfortunately common for people to try to weasel their way out of using condoms. “It doesn’t feel as good,” “I just got out of a long relationship, so I’m not used to them,” and “I hate the smell” (especially when it comes to latex ones) are all excuses that I’ve heard in an attempt to not wearing protection. Some folks may even claim they’re “allergic” to condoms—which might actually be true.
Close to 19 million Americans—roughly 6% of the population—have a latex allergy, which can lead to a variety of very uncomfortable symptoms as a result of sex with a latex condom. Allergic reactions to latex can present themselves in a few different ways and range in discomfort and severity. At its worst, the most serious allergic reaction to latex is anaphylaxis, which can result in difficulty in breathing and even death. (Thankfully, it’s very rare and one would likely know of such a severe reaction before ever being exposed to their first latex condom.) Sneezing, runny nose, and itchy/watery eyes are other rare but severe reactions, but the most common (and mild) symptoms of a latex allergy are hives, redness, pain, and/or itching. You can use antihistamines to treat your symptoms, but if you have a severe reaction, an epi-pen can be used to stymie any extreme allergic reaction to latex.
These symptoms typically start within fifteen minutes of coming into contact with latex condoms and can last for up to several days. The tricky part? The symptoms of a latex allergy—redness, pain, and itching—can also mimic the signs of some STIs. Skin conditions (eczema, for example), non-sexually transmitted infections (yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, etc), and even a simple problem like not enough lubrication during sex. To know for sure, a latex allergy can only be confirmed via a skin test performed by a doctor.
There is no cure for a latex allergy, so it’s important to avoid it whenever possible if you are allergic. Thankfully, there are a number of options for non latex/non synthetic latex condoms including:
- Polyethylene: This plastic material is preferred because condoms can be made thinner without giving up strength. In fact, polyethylene condoms are three times strong than latex condoms. These condoms have no smell and can be used with any lubrication, which is a big plus. There is only one option on the market with this material- Unique condoms.
- Polyurethane: These condoms also are thinner than most latex condoms, and they have little to no smell. On the downside, polyurethane can”t be made as thin as polyethylene so the sensitivity is not as good.
- Lambskin: This material is made from lamb intestine and is a more natural feel than latex. But do note that while lambskin condoms are effective when it comes to lowering pregnancy risk, because they are made from a lamb intestine, they are porous enough to let STI-causing bacteria through the barrier and should not be used to prevent sexually-transmitted infections.
Unlike the two other non-latex options on the market, Unique Condoms help prevent both pregnancy and STIs. In addition, they are one third the thickness of standard latex condoms, three times stronger, as well as odorless and vegan. The next time someone claims they’re allergic to condoms, keep in mind that they could be—but the good news is safer sex without latex is possible.