Virginia Beach high school senior fights for latex allergy awareness


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Allergies aren’t just a nuisance. For some people, they can cause serious health problems.

17-year-old Michael Russo only recently discovered his allergy to latex, but is quickly finding it difficult to live a normal life.

Michael and his mother Lisa both suffer from a latex allergy.

“I don’t go anywhere we hear there are balloons. I don’t go anywhere where they use latex gloves, I don’t even step foot inside the building. So if that happens by accident, I’ll start to have a reaction,” Lisa said.

This is the reality for the Virginia Beach family.

“Usually I start to lose my voice. That is the first thing, and that is a really scary thing, because losing your voice means your throat is swelling and you’d be headed for anaphylaxis,” Lisa said.

Lisa says sometimes they carry more than 5 EpiPens with them just in case.

Recently Michael applied for a job at a restaurant, but he says his allergy got in the way of getting the job.

“When I told her that I had a latex allergy and it would prevent me from being able to work there safely, I was not given the job,” Michael said.

This is part of what kickstarted his mission to make people more aware of how they can avoid the allergic response and live a safer life.

Proclamations from Governor Ralph Northam and Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer set their goals in motion, declaring Oct. 6-12 Latex Allergy Awareness Week.

They hope to make people understand it’s not just gloves or condoms that are the problem, and want to see the state make permanent changes to keep everyone safe with a latex ban.

“I just hope that people really start to understand how dangerous it can be and that they start taking the necessary precautions for themselves so they’re not exposed, and they don’t develop the allergy themselves,” Michael said.

They are hoping to get sponsors for a bill they are working on that would seek to ban, at minimum, latex gloves for food service and medical response in the commonwealth.

They hope to join states like Hawaii, Connecticut and Oregon.

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