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What Is The Difference Between A Food Allergy And A Food Intolerance?

Updated on October 28, 2015

Nuts Are Common Food Allergens


My Experience With Food Allergies And Intolerances.

Let me start off by saying that I have a tree nut allergy, but I am also lactose-intolerance. We have knows about my lactose intolerance since birth since I did not tolerate formula well at all.

My family brought me to the doctor and found out that I was colicky and had me switched to a soy-based formula.

My tree nut allergy did not pop up until I was thirty years old and I only found out when I ate a tree nut and I had an allergic reaction.

I have been seeing an Allergist for years and I have been reading up on food allergies more since my son was diagnosed with severe peanut allergies.

You can tell the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance by the symptoms. They are very different, but food allergies and intolerances are confused with each other a lot.

What Anaphylaxis Looks Like.

What anaphylaxis looks like.
What anaphylaxis looks like. | Source

Food Intolerance Symptoms

A food intolerance will make you uncomfortable, but it will not put your life in danger.

I am lactose-intolerant, so when I do accidentally ingest dairy, I get very gassy, noticeable bloated and have diarrhea.

My stomach fills up with so much air that it feels like it could literally pop. The feeling usually lasts several hours.

Colicky babies usually have a milk intolerance and have to be switched to soy milk to get some relief.

Anaphylaxis and Allergy Awareness Video

Food Allergies

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Food Allergy Symptoms

A food allergy is life-threatening.

Some of the symptoms of food allergies include, but are not limited to:

  • hives
  • swelling of the throat, gums, tongue, lips or ears
  • a tickly feeling in the throat, ears or nose
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • decreased blood pressure
  • rashes
  • suddenly getting very white and having a zombie-like stare
  • anaphylaxis
  • death

A food allergy is very serious! Each reaction could be different. One time they could have hives and swelling, the next they could vomit and have cramps and the next they could go into complete anaphylactic shock.

If a person has a mild reaction one or two times, that does not mean that they will always have mild reactions. Each reaction is different.

Always be prepared with an Epi-Pen and a phone to call 9-1-1. Always read labels to determine if those ingredients are included. Always watch for signs of food allergies, especially when trying new food.

If someone is having an food allergic reaction, they need an Epi-Pen and will need to go to the closest ER immediately.

Benadryl will only cover the symptoms, it will not stop the blood pressure from going down or the throat from closing up.

Allergy Testing


Allergy And Intolerance Facts

  • Food allergies are life-threatening
  • Food intolerances are an extreme annoyance, but not life threatenting
  • Benadryl covers up the symptoms, but it does not fix the problem. If someone is having an allergic reaction to food, they need an Epi-Pen and they need to get to the ER as soon as possible.
  • Both food intolerances and allergies require dietary changes

Cute Wristbands That Help Make Others Aware Of Food Allergies When You Are Not Around

Food Allergies vs. Food Intolerances

If you have a food intolerance, it is more of an extremely annoying reaction.

If you have a food allergy, it is life threatening. A food allergy is not something to be made light of.

If you suspect that you or your child has a food allergy, make an appointment with and Allergist who can do food testing (as shown in the picture above) to determine what foods to avoid and to get a prescription for an Epi-Pen.

An Epi-Pen can save a persons life during an anaphylactic reaction!

If your child has a food allergy, always make sure that the school knows about the allergy and has the proper medication (Epi-Pen Jr) on hand, which you will need to provide.

When they go to other peoples homes, let others know so they will be aware not to give them anything dangerous.

Also, teach your child not to eat anything unless they know for sure that it is safe. They could ask the cafeteria managers, the nurse, parents and family members.

Also, teach them to never share food with their friends. Once they are old enough, you can also show them how to read labels for allergens.

Major symptoms of Food Allergies and Intolerances

Heart Rate
No Effect
Usually none, may effect asthma
no effect
Hives & Swelling
throat could close up
heart rate could go down, skin goes white & blank stare
As you can see, food allergies are serious and life threatening while food intolerances are more of a nuisance.


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    • caseymel profile image

      caseymel 3 years ago from Indiana

      Thanks billybuc! You will be seeing an email from me shortly! (-:

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Casey, I want to help you get more me at and I'll tell you what I did, and do.

    • caseymel profile image

      caseymel 3 years ago from Indiana

      Thanks for commenting! I didn't either until the doctor asked me if I was allergic to anything. I told him milk and he asked if it was an intolerance or allergy. I am intolerant to milk, but I have a tree nut allergy.

    • aerospacefan profile image

      John M 3 years ago from Chicago

      I never knew the difference between these two terms. Very interesting and insightful!

    • caseymel profile image

      caseymel 3 years ago from Indiana

      Thanks billybuc!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good information. I like that you shared your own experiences. I find that always gives an article more validity and power.