Lambskin offers alternatives for students allergic to latex

Male latex condoms are available almost anywhere and are sometimes as cheap as 70 cents per condom. But those who suffer from allergic reactions to latex have no use for the availability of these condoms.

There are some alternatives for people who do not or are not able to use latex. Contraceptives made from other materials, like female and male polyurethane condoms, are also available. Polyurethane condoms are hypoallergenic because they are made from a type of plastic that also makes them odorless and less likely to melt.

Although polyurethane has its upsides, it also has its drawbacks.

Polyurethane condoms are more likely to slip and break, they cost a bit more than male latex condoms, and they are not as effective in the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

An additional alternative to latex and polyurethane condoms is lambskin. Lambskin condoms are made of the intestinal membrane of a lamb.

Since lambskin condoms are made of natural materials, they are very thin and deliver a sensation as if a person were wearing nothing at all. But there are pores, or tiny holes in them.

These pores are small enough to stop sperm but large enough to let viruses pass through to the partner. It is for this reason that lambskin condom manufacturers are not allowed to print on its boxes that it may prevent HIV/AIDS and other STDs.

Another negative reason lambskin condoms are not too popular is their price. A 12-box of lambskin condoms sells for as much as $29.99, whereas a 12-box of latex condoms goes for as little as $6.99. Some students do not see the high price of lambskin condoms as an issue. Ashley Reed, 22, a senior business student from Cleveland, said she is willing to take the necessary measures to protect herself.

“I’ve heard of lambskin condoms, but I didn’t know they were that expensive,” Reed said. “If I were allergic to latex, I would just have to spend that extra money to get whatever I need to accommodate me. It’s nobody’s health but my own.”

Victor Odoh, 19, a sophomore biology student from Altamonte Springs, goes by the old saying “safety first.”

“If you’re not willing to protect yourself the best way possible, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it,” Odoh said. “My health is too important to me. I wouldn’t take any chances.”

For men and women who are allergic to lambskin or latex condoms, there are options such as doubling up. Men can wear a latex condom over a lambskin condom so that his skin does not come in contact with the latex. A woman who is allergic to latex may consider having her partner wear a lambskin condom over a latex condom so her genitalia does not come in contact with the latex.

Research has shown that doubling up on condoms is safe as long as people do not layer up on the same type of condom. Wearing two latex condoms or two polyurethane condoms reduces the effectiveness of the condoms.

However Dr. Shankar Shetty, director of student health services at FAMU, said he does not see doubling as a practical solution.”Some students don’t even like wearing one condom,” Shetty said. “I don’t think it’s realistic that they’ll use two. Two condoms will take away from the sensitivity, which students don’t want.”

In order to help advocate safe sex, the FAMU clinic gives out free condoms, but not lambskin or male polyurethane condoms because of their low effectiveness.

“We don’t give out lambskin because bacteria and viruses can still pass through, and polyurethane breaks very easily,” Shetty said. “We do give out some female polyurethane condoms.”Shetty said a female polyurethane condom is the next best alternative to wearing the two different types of condoms at once.

Overall, Shetty recommends male latex condoms because of their durability and effectiveness in the prevention of STD transmission and pregnancy.