Pesticide Related Symptoms

Maggie Scarbrough

Some people develop a harmful effect in response to certain substances. This is an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions do not usually develop until a person is exposed for a second or third time to the particular substance. This period of time is known as sensitization and the responsible substance is known as a sensitizer. Not all people will react the same way to each substance. For example many people have a reaction to poison ivy, but not many have a reaction to turf grass.


As with other substances, some pesticides will cause an allergic reaction in a certain portion of the population. Some people are more chemically sensitive and more likely to develop a reaction. However, it is impossible to know who will and will not become sensitized to a particular pesticide. Some of the effects include asthma, shock, rash, sores, and eye and nose irritation.


Pesticide labels will indicate which chemicals are more likely to induce allergic reactions.


Depending on the severity of the allergic reaction a person may or may not be able to continue to work with a particular pesticide.


There are clues to watch for in a pesticide related illness or injury. Symptoms may be visible to others, like vomiting or fainting. Other symptoms, like nausea and headache, are not visible to others. You should always be aware of signs demonstrated by coworkers or others who may have been exposed. Several of the symptoms could easily be associated with other illness like the flu. Only a doctor can determine for sure if someone has developed a reaction to a pesticide. Therefore, if you or someone you know develops symptoms after exposure to pesticide; consult a physician or a poison control center.


External signs include rash, burns, blisters, swelling, stinging, redness and burning in the eyes, nose, mouth and throat. Poisoning can cause sweating, chills, thirst, headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, chest pain, breathing difficulty, and muscle aches or cramps.


Particular pesticides will cause particular signs that are easily recognizable. Many doctors have not been trained on these specifics or have not seen enough cases to recognize them. Your personal doctor should be alerted to your exposure and consequences. Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisoning by Donald P. Morgan, M.D., Ph. D. is an excellent resource for this. An example of a specific symptom is the smell of garlic odor on the breath of a victim. Pesticides containing arsenic or phosphorus cause this. Your best defense is to be informed when it comes to chemicals you deal with on a regular basis.


If you or a coworker exhibits symptoms, do not take it lightly. Consult medical professionals as quickly as possible and take pesticide containers with you. It is always better to err on the side of caution.


The number one step in first aid for pesticide exposure is to remove the victim from exposure as quickly as possible. The initial effort to help a victim while waiting for medical help is considered first aid. Before you summon help, be sure the victim is breathing and away from the chemical. Do not expose yourself to the chemical and start artificial respiration if necessary.