What is the difference between food allergies and food intolerances? – Elaine Food allergies and food intolerances (or sensitivities) can have similar symptoms, but are very different conditions: Intolerances, such as lactose intolerance and celiac disease, can cause someone to feel ill. Food allergies not only can make someone feel ill, but also can cause a life-threatening reaction (called anaphylaxis). A food intolerance means either the body cannot properly digest the food that is eaten, or that a particular food might irritate the digestive system. Symptoms of food intolerance can include nausea, gas, cramps, abdominal pain, diarrhea, irritability, nervousness, or headaches. A food allergy happens when the body's immune system, which normally fights infections, sees the food as an invader. This leads to an allergic reaction — a response from the immune system in which chemicals like histamine are released in the body. The reaction can cause symptoms like breathing problems, throat tightness, hoarseness, coughing, vomiting, abdominal pain, hives, swelling, or a drop in blood pressure. Even if previous reactions have been mild, someone with a food allergy is always at risk of the next reaction being life-threatening. Eating a microscopic amount of the food, or sometimes even touching or inhaling it, could lead to anaphylaxis. So anyone with a food allergy must avoid the problem food(s) entirely and always carry emergency injectable epinephrine. Many people with food sensitivities, on the other hand, can ingest a small amount of the bothersome food without a problem. Back to Articles Related Articles Milk Allergy Milk allergy can cause serious reactions. Find out how to keep kids safe. Read More Shellfish Allergy Shellfish allergies can be serious - and shellfish can appear in some surprising foods and products. Read about shellfish allergy and what to do when a reaction is severe. 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Read More Serious Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis) A person with severe allergies can be at risk for a sudden, serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This reaction can seem scary, but the good news is it can be treated. Read More Fish Allergy Fish allergy can cause a serious reaction. Find out how to keep kids safe. Read More Wheat Allergy Wheat allergy can cause serious reactions. Find out how to help kids with an allergy stay safe. Read More Food Allergies Doctors are diagnosing more and more people with food allergies. Knowing what to expect and how to deal with food allergies can make a big difference in preventing serious illness. Read More Food Allergies Struggling with strawberries? Petrified of peanuts? Sorry you ate shellfish? Maybe you have a food allergy. Find out more in this article for kids. Read More Food Allergies: How to Cope With food allergies, preventing a reaction means avoiding that food entirely. But sometimes allergens can be hidden in places you don't expect. Here are tips on living with a food allergy. Read More Shellfish Allergy Shellfish allergy can cause serious reactions. Find out common symptoms of allergic reactions and how to respond. Read More Food Allergies Food allergies can cause serious and even deadly reactions in kids, so it's important to know how to feed a child with food allergies and to prevent reactions. Read More Serious Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis) Kids with severe allergies can be at risk for a sudden, serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. The good news is that when treated properly, anaphylaxis can be managed. Read More Nut and Peanut Allergy If your child is allergic to nuts or peanuts, it's essential to learn what foods might contain them and how to avoid them. Read More Egg Allergy Helping your child manage an egg allergy means reading food labels carefully, being aware of what he or she eats, and carrying the right medicines in case of an allergic reaction. Read More Egg Allergy Living with an egg allergy means you have to be aware of what you're eating and read food labels carefully. Here are some tips for teens who have an egg allergy. Read More Nut and Peanut Allergy A growing number of kids are allergic to nuts and peanuts. Find out more about this problem and how allergic kids can stay healthy. Read More Allergy Testing Doctors use several different types of allergy tests, depending on what a person may be allergic to. Find out what to expect from allergy tests. Read More Egg Allergy Babies sometimes have an allergic reaction to eggs. If that happens, they can't eat eggs for a while. But the good news is that most kids outgrow this allergy by age 5. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. 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