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What are the Different Sensitivity Symptoms?

By Teresa Shaw
Updated May 17, 2024
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Sensitivity symptoms can vary widely, depending on whether they are caused by an intolerance or allergy. Symptoms also very depending on the allergen being dealt with and whether the symptoms are due to a chemical sensitivity, environmental sensitivity, or food sensitivity. Some common sensitivity symptoms include reactions on the skin and in the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. Severe reactions, such as anaphylactic shock, can be fatal.

A food allergy evokes an immune response, where the body produces antibodies to fight off what it perceives as a threat. In this situation, sensitivity symptoms might include the sudden onset of external skin reactions like swelling, hives, or rash; or respiratory reactions like runny nose, asthma, throat swelling. A reaction to food that is eaten may include gastrointestinal reactions like severe stomach cramping with forceful diarrhea or vomiting, or thick waves of nausea; or local oral reactions like swelling, itching, and sometimes hives involving the mouth, tongue, and lips. In serious cases, an allergic person may suffer anaphylaxis: a severe shock which involves some of the reactions above along with a drop in blood pressure, a spike in heart rate, faintness, confusion, and a feeling of impending doom. Without treatment, anaphylactic shock may cause death.

A food intolerance involves a more localized response that generally doesn’t last as long as an allergy reaction, nor is it usually as severe. Food intolerance symptoms are usually gastrointestinal and include harsh abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nausea, and gas. Food intolerances can make the sufferer feel sick and tired.

Environmental sensitivity symptoms can be mild or severe and can affect daily living activities. These sensitivity symptoms include feeling groggy or being unable to concentrate, fatigue, and headaches. Other symptoms may include a stuffy nose, itchy eyes, asthma and shortness of breath, joint and muscle aches, and anxiety. Environmental sensitivity symptoms are generally brought on by food additives, pet dander, dust, pollen, pollution, and pests.

Chemical sensitivity symptoms can also vary in degree of severity and should be monitored closely by a physician, especially when faced with work-place or home exposure. These types of sensitivity symptoms include annoyance reactions, where the sufferer might experience a heightened sense of smell; and irritational reactions, such as burning sensations in the eyes, nose mouth, and throat. Immune reactions, where chemicals bond with human proteins and cause a true immune response like asthma or hay fever, are also possible, as are intoxication reactions.

Intoxication reactions are very serious and can cause death. These symptoms are generally caused by long-term exposure to toxic pollutants and can cause permanent damage to the body. The symptoms are varied and depend upon the type of chemical and the extent of the exposure. Anyone who suspects work or home place sensitivity issues should see a physician immediately so that he or she can test and monitor any reactions.

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Discussion Comments
By anon51237 — On Nov 04, 2009

Sensitivity to foods are common in migraine headache patients. Soy in various forms (like tofu, soy milk) can trigger migraines, as can chocolate, citrus fruits, bananas, and alcohol. This is not a complete list.

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