Food Allergy or Food Intolerance?

Food Allergies The body can develop an allergy to any number of foods. This happens when the immune system makes the allergic antibody Immunoglobulin E (or IgE) in response to allergenic foods. These types of allergies are more common in children, but some may persist for life.

Food Allergies

Allergist Dr. Warner Carr shares vital information on food allergies:

• What is a food allergy?
Should your child be tested for a food allergy? Going to school with food allergies.

Anaphylactic shock is a severe type of allergic reaction that occurs within seconds after a person comes into contact with an allergen, triggering a massive immune system response, and can claim a life in less than five minutes.

High levels of histamines and other substances flood the body and cause a rapid systemic failure, leading to an immediate drop in blood pressure, swelling of the tongue, throat and eyes, difficulty breathing, shock and if left untreated, death.

Common Food Allergy Symptoms

Rash, itching
Lip and/or tongue swelling Difficulty breathing Anaphylaxis

Allergens can include food, animal hair and by-products, insects and even certain types of medications.

The foods that most often cause an allergic reaction are:

Cow's milk
Tree nuts
Seafood, especially shellfish

If you suffer from allergies, your doctor should prescribe you a shot of epinephrine that you carry with you at all times. If you have accidental exposure and symptoms develop, give yourself a shot of epinephrine and then call 911 to seek treatment immediately, even before symptoms become severe.

For people who suffer from food allergies, an Epi-Pen could be a life-saving device. An Epi-Pen contains a large dosage of epinephrine, or adrenaline, that counters the effects of the histamine reaction when injected. However, the Epi-Pen is not a solution; it merely buys time to get to the emergency room. Most importantly, every minute counts, so be sure to act quickly and get the victim to a hospital immediately.

The effects of an allergic reaction can last from several minutes to hours, depending on how much of the food was consumed and the severity of the allergy.

Your doctor may also recommend antihistamines or steroid medications to be used for a short time. However, it is important to use these medications for additive therapy and use the epinephrine as the first line of treatment. Antihistamine and steroids only treat the symptoms, while the epinephrine will treat the allergic reaction.

Oftentimes, people will confuse a food allergy with food intolerance or sensitivity, which is usually less severe.

Food Intolerance Symptoms
Bloating Abdominal discomfort Nausea

"Food intolerance is moreso when foods that you eat don't agree with you," E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork says. "People are lactose intolerant. Some people with [irritable bowel syndrome], there are just some foods that don't agree with them. This is a digestive-system issue, and that is very different than food allergies."