What is the difference between the two?
People often confuse allergies and intolerances. Understanding them clearly will help if you are concerned about a possible food-related problem in your own family.
• An allergy is related to a reaction by the body’s immune system to a particular food.
• Physical reactions develop quickly after a food has been eaten.
• Symptoms of a reaction might include itching, rashes, swelling and redness around the mouth and in extreme cases breathing difficulties.
• The smallest amount of a food might cause an allergic reaction.
• A food allergy can be life-threatening and should be treated with urgent medical attention.
• The food must be completely avoided.
• A person with a serious allergy might be given portable treatment (eg an ‘Epi-Pen’) to keep with them at all times, to counter a reaction.
• Physical reactions tend to be less intense and obvious – bloating or stomach pain a few hours after eating.
• An intolerance is triggered by the body’s digestive system’s inability to efficiently break down something in a food that has been eaten.
• Symptoms are not immediately life-threatening but can affect general well-being.
• Because the reaction isn’t so quickly noticed, it can take a while to identify an intolerance. It is worth identifying a few possible causes, taking these out of the diet and then gradually adding them back in to see what happens. Consult a GP before cutting whole food groups out of a diet.
• The food should be avoided but small amounts of it are unlikely to cause too much discomfort.
Check out How to spot a food allergy.
Pass it on – five common food allergies
Check out the food allergens most common in children.