WENDY Moreland's deadly allergy to latex stops her from going into shopping centres and has robbed her of a normal life.
The 50-year-old from Mooloolaba contracted allergic contact anaphylaxis in 1994 after being exposed to latex for many years.
"I was a nurse and had latex gloves on every day," she said.
Five years ago, her allergy worsened and she now suffers from biphasic inhalation anaphylaxis.
"If I inhale the pollens from a balloon, I can suffer an anaphylactic reaction and go into cardiac arrest," she said.
"This precludes me from entering shopping centres and many shops.
"My main problem is the number of balloons in shopping centres."
Ms Moreland said her allergy not only forced her to give up a 30-year career in nursing, it had compromised her lifestyle severely.
"I don't have a social life, I barely have a life," she said. "I get friends to go and buy food for me or I run into a shop and run out hoping they don't have balloons.
"I spend a lot of time sitting wherever I'm living because any time I go places I put myself at risk of having cardiac arrest.
"I carry adrenaline with me, I have to get a paramedic to me within 10 minutes otherwise I'll be dead.
"It's terrifying emotionally and mentally. It's taken a terrible toll, I have depression and associated problems with that."
Ms Moreland said she had contacted local shopping centres asking them to use non-latex balloons, or not use so many balloons.
She is also calling on restaurants to stop using latex gloves for food preparation.
"There are more people developing contact latex allergies every day," she said. "Stop putting balloons up. It's not such a hard thing."
Ms Moreland was desperate to get the word out there, to educate people about allergies to latex and rubber.
She said localised reactions were quite common and could occur from using condoms or the swelling of lips after blowing up a balloon.
"If we can get this word out and stop people using balloons it will get better without the trigger," she said.
Ms Moreland heads to Brisbane every two weeks for specialist appointments with her GP, allergy specialist and psychiatrist.
Sunshine Allergy Clinic Dr Michael Becker, who has had 20 years of experience in his field, said Ms Moreland's allergy was "pretty extreme" and hampered her life more than many other allergies.
"There are people who can't have pets, or can't let their kids go to people with pets," he said.
Dr Becker said allergies were becoming more common worldwide.
"There's the hygiene hypothesis: people today are far more obsessive about cleanliness than they were," he said.
TYPES OF LATEX ALLERGIES
- Type IV allergic contact dermatitis: delayed skin rash with blistering and oozing of the skin, a common reaction for people who use gloves on a daily basis, and notice a rash on their hands or fingers. If people notice this reaction, they must stop using latex gloves, as they are pre-disposed to Type I reaction.
- Type I anaphylaxis: potentially life-threatening, similar to the reaction people have to bee stings. Anaphylaxis can present with many different symptoms due to the effects of histamine release.
- Latex is a milky sap produced by the rubber tree hevea brasiliensis.
- Medical and dental staff may develop occupational allergy through use of latex gloves.