The Difference Between Food Allergy and Food Intolerance
A food allergy is an immune system reaction that is triggered by eating a particular food or food additive. Allergic reactions include wheezing, having a hard time breathing, hives, eczema, vomiting and diarrhea, and can be triggered by just a teensy amount of the food culprit.
These symptoms can be serious, some even life-threatening. Children under the age of 5 are most susceptible to food allergies because their digestive systems are not yet mature.
Common food allergy trigger foods include cow's milk, nuts, eggs, peanut butter, fish and shellfish. Although children tend to outgrow most food allergies, some (usually nut and fish allergies) are permanent.
A food intolerance, on the other hand, is a bad reaction to food that does not involve the immune system. Symptoms occur during digestion, not immediately, and include bloating, loose stools and gas after eating the offending food.
Lactose intolerance is a common example of a food intolerance. A person with lactose intolerance lacks an enzyme needed to digest milk sugar. When she eats milk products, symptoms such as gas, bloating and abdominal pain may occur.
Because it's easy to mistake some of the symptoms of a food intolerance with those of a food allergy, it's important to have them properly diagnosed by your pediatrician.