The “BIG FIVE”: A way of identifying sensitivities

At a US National Conference on Children with Sensitivities, May 31 to June 1, 1996, Dr. Doris Rapp explained a way of identifying environmental sensitivities: The BIG FIVE. Dr. Rapp is a Pediatric Allergist specializing in Environmental Medicine. She has written several well known books and videos on children and Environmental Sensitivity.

The BIG FIVE are: appearance, actions, pulse, breathing, and writing.

After being exposed to a condition, food, location, medication, or anything else that might be a possible “incitant”, check yourself or your child in the following way:

a) Has pulse inexplicably changed (up or down) 20 pulses from normal?

b) Note breathing changes. Use a Peak Flow meter to check air flow. Is there a drop of 15% or more?

c) Observe and record how your child looks. (wiggly legs? red ears? dark, red, runny, sore eyes or nose?)

d) Note changes in behaviour or how s/he feels. (tired, pains, hyperactive, angry, sad…?)

e) Can your child write or draw as well as usual?

Check rooms, school, workplace, other locations, before and after spending time there. Check medications, chemicals, other.

For example, if you think foods may be the problem, check the BIG FIVE fifteen minutes before and fifteen minutes after a meal. If you note a change in any of the BIG FIVE, isolate the foods by not eating any of those eaten at that meal for four to twelve days. Then on a Saturday, eat a large serving of one of the single foods alone for breakfast and check for symptoms over the next few hours. Check each of the foods this way. Check the BIG FIVE before and after each food until you identify the problem food(s).

Dr. Rapp suggested another way of identifying possible problem foods is to write down your five favourite foods. Do you crave certain foods? Often these are problematic. Test using the BIG FIVE.

Also, test common foods such as sugar, milk, additives/dyes/colouring, corn, wheat, eggs, cocoa, citrus, soy, or anything your child consumes daily.

Dr. Rapp cautioned not to do the at-home food testing if you suspect a serious or frightening reaction (such as anaphylaxis).

Canadians for A Safe Learning Environment