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Do You Have COVID Chemical Sensitivity? Answer These 3 Yes or No Questions to Find Out

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Cleaning chemicals or COVID related symptoms?

Here is a 3 "yes or no" question survey that a new study found is highly predictive toward whether or not you have chemical sensitivity.


COVID-19 has Americans on a cleaning frenzy as we try to do what we can to stop the spread of the coronavirus. As such, sales and use of cleaning chemicals have skyrocketed and now a potential new problem could be on the rise due to health problems related to exposure to this chemical assault in our homes and in the workplace. Furthermore, sensitivity reactions from exposure to cleaning chemicals could complicate and mask the symptoms of whether or not you are coming down with an illness such as the flu or COVID-19.

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So, how can you tell whether or not you might have sensitivity to a cleaning product in you home that might be causing you some needless worry lately? One solution that may be applicable is a new study that offers a 3-question test for chemical sensitivity.

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Chemical Sensitivity Survey

A news release about a study published by researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, reports that few patients receive any type of screening for health issues that could be due to chemical sensitivity.

To help patients receive better care and increase awareness of chemical insensitivity experienced by a significant amount of people on a daily basis, the researchers designed a three-question, yes-or-no survey that primary care physicians, allergy specialists, dermatologists and other healthcare providers can use during patient visits that is quick and a predictive indicator for the longer, more involved comprehensive 50-question survey typically used to assess chemical sensitivity.

The new 3-question survey, called the Brief Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory, or BREESI, was found to be an accurate predictor of the more comprehensive standard for measuring chemical intolerance 50-question survey called the Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (QEESI).

“People who become ill from exposures to chemicals, such as bleach, disinfectants, pesticides, mold, combustion products or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), have higher scores on the QEESI,” said Claudia S. Miller, MD, MS, professor emeritus in the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio. “But the QEESI is a little long for rapid screening.”

The need for a brief pre-screening test was developed by the researchers who focused on three different exposure categories: chemical inhalants, drugs/medications and foods/food additives using volunteers who completed both the BREESI and QEESI surveys.

The Brief Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory

Answer these three questions by checking Yes or No.

1. Do you feel sick when you are exposed to tobacco smoke, certain fragrances, nail polish/remover, engine exhaust, gasoline, air fresheners, pesticides, paint/thinner, fresh tar/asphalt, cleaning supplies, new carpet or furnishings? By sick we mean: headache, difficulty thinking, difficulty breathing, weakness, dizziness, upset stomach, etc.

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2. Are you unable to tolerate or do you have adverse or allergic reactions to any drugs or medications (such as antibiotics, anesthetics, pain relievers, X-ray contrast dye, vaccines or birth control pills), or to an implant, prosthesis, contraceptive chemical or device, or other medical/surgical/dental material or procedure?

3. Are you unable to tolerate or do you have adverse reactions to any foods such as dairy products, wheat, corn, eggs, caffeine, alcoholic beverages, or food additives (e.g., MSG, food dye)?

The Study’s Results

According to the news release, when comparing the results of the shorter survey with the results of the longer traditional survey used by healthcare providers, the research team found that the BREESI survey yielded the following results:

• Of respondents who said “yes” to all three BREESI questions, 90% had scores “very suggestive” of chemical intolerance.

• Of those who said “no” to all three BREESI questions, 95% had scores “not suggestive” of chemical intolerance.

The researchers concluded that, “… The BREESI provides a rapid means of identifying intolerances, thereby providing clinicians and epidemiologists with a useful, new screening tool… we urge practitioners, medical practices, and health plans to adopt the BREESI in order to screen their patients for CI. If the BREESI screen is positive, then patients should complete a QEESI and give copies to each of their health care providers.”

“Our goal is to improve everyone’s understanding of chemical intolerance through research, education, and outreach,” Dr. Miller said. “Educating health care workers is a top priority. We have now given them a useful tool."

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Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Today, with an eye on the latest news, Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on what you need to know for healthier living. For continual updates about health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.

Image Source: Courtesy of Ahmad Gunnaivi on Unsplash.


Think you have chemical intolerance? Answer 3 questions” UT Health Newsroom, Published On: September 21, 2020.

Three questions for identifying chemically intolerant individuals in clinical and epidemiological populations: The Brief Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (BREESI)” Raymond F. Palmer, Carlos R. Jaén, Roger B. Perales, Rodolfo Rincon, Jacqueline N. Forster, Claudia S. Miller; First published: Sept. 16, 2020, PLOS ONE.