Pesticide Allergy

Table of Contents

Pesticides are used to control pests around plants. There are seven types of pesticides:

Insecticides – kills insects
Herbicides – kills weeds/plants
Rodenticides – kills rodents (rats and mice)
Bactericides – kills bacteria
Fungicides – kills fungi
Larvicides – kills larvae

Most pesticides are harmless to people, but there are some individuals that develop allergic sensitization to certain chemicals. There are two types of allergic sensitization: skin and respiratory. Skin allergic sensitization is brought on by skin contact. This affects mostly farmers who are directly exposed to the pesticides. Respiratory allergic sensitization occurs through inhalation. Using a pesticide with a high inhalation hazard without a respirator can bring on this sensitization. Symptoms usually show immediately.

Pesticides can be found anywhere so having a pesticide allergy can be dangerous. Studies show that pesticides may cause food allergies in patients. People exposed to high amounts of chemicals or pesticides have a higher risk of developing some type of food allergy. For this reason, patients should get tested for food allergies after being diagnosed with a pesticide allergy.

As pesticide allergies develop, allergic reactions can get worse with each exposure. During the first exposure, you may not show symptoms at all. It takes longer for the immune system to register the pesticide as harmful in some individuals. Symptoms can also just be delayed, which is why this allergy is often underdiagnosed. You’ll need an allergist to confirm the diagnosis.

Pesticide Allergy Symptoms

Symptoms of skin allergic sensitization include:

• Swelling
• Redness
• Itching
• Pain
• Blistering

Symptoms of respiratory allergic sensitization include:

• Wheezing
• Difficulty in breathing
• Shortness of breath
• Chest tightness
• Coughing

Symptoms of skin allergic sensitization are usually mild and go away on their own. However, you still may need treatment. Respiratory sensitization is a bit more severe and can lead to a severe asthma attack. If you experience these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.

Common Pesticides that Cause An Allergic Reaction


Pesticide Allergy Diagnosis

As with any chemical related allergy, a patch test is the preferred method to diagnose a pesticide allergy. During a patch test, you may feel discomfort early on but symptoms can also be delayed; so allergists will leave the patch on the skin for at least two days. You may also need to return about a week later so the doctor can assess your skin. Our allergists will determine with you how long a patch test needs to be performed.

If you have any skin conditions that may skew the results of the patch test, let your allergist know at the time of your appointment. Doctors recommend not using cortisone creams or ointments before your test, as some creams can affect the results. If this is non-negotiable for you, a blood test may be administered to diagnose your pesticide allergy instead.

Pesticide Allergy Treatment

If you have been diagnosed with a pesticide allergy, you need to avoid direct contact with pesticides. For those that handle pesticides for work, take additional measures to protect yourself from these chemicals. Wear protective clothing and a mask to avoid skin contact and inhalation.

To treat symptoms related to the skin, ask your doctor about the right cortisone or anti-itch cream for you. There are different types of over-the-counter allergy medications to help soothe your itching and burning, but some symptoms require prescription medications.

Inhaled corticosteroids can treat asthma-related symptoms. This medication must be prescribed by a doctor; so if you experience breathing problems after being exposed to pesticides, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Pesticide Allergy Frequently Asked Questions

Which Pesticide Causes The Most Allergic Reactions?

Many pesticides are known to cause allergic reactions. However, pyrethrum has been recently reported of causing the most severe asthma reactions.

If I’m Allergic to One Pesticide, Will I Be Allergic to All of Them?

Being allergic to one pesticide does not mean that you will be allergic to all of them. You may just be sensitive to one chemical in a pesticide. Contact one of our allergists to determine which chemicals you need to avoid.

Is Pesticide Allergy Curable?

No, pesticide allergy is not curable. However, you can manage this allergy with avoidance and the proper treatment determined by your doctor.

Why Are People Allergic to Pesticides?

People are allergic to the chemicals in pesticides. The immune system registers those chemicals as harmful in certain situations.

Can I Be Allergic to Pesticides?

Individuals that suffer from asthma are more likely to develop an allergy to pesticides. If you experience the above symptoms, you may be allergic to pesticides.

How is Pesticide Allergy Treated?

Pesticide Allergy is treated with allergy medications. Cortisone creams and inhaled corticosteroids are the common types of medication used to treat this condition.

How is Pesticide Allergy Diagnosed?

Pesticide Allergy is diagnosed by a board-certified allergist. An allergist will use either a patch test or a blood test to see if you react to a certain chemical.


If you believe that you suffer from a pesticide allergy, contact the NYC allergists at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers. With access to the latest allergy testing and treatment, we can diagnose your pesticide allergy today. We offer six convenient offices to treat your allergies no matter where you are in the city. Call 212-686-4448 to book your appointment now!