- News Releases
Follow the symptom clues to find out whether you possibly have a food allergy or a food intolerance.
Physical reactions to certain foods are common, but most are caused by a food intolerance rather than a food allergy. A food intolerance can cause some of the same signs and symptoms as a food allergy, so people often confuse the two.
A true food allergy causes an immune system reaction that affects numerous organs in the body. It can cause a range of symptoms. In some cases, an allergic food reaction can be severe or life-threatening. In contrast, food intolerance symptoms are generally less serious and often limited to digestive problems.
If you have a food intolerance, you may be able to eat small amounts of the offending food without trouble. You may also be able to prevent a reaction. For example, if you have lactose intolerance, you may be able to drink lactose-free milk or take lactase enzyme pills (Lactaid) to aid digestion.
Causes of food intolerance include:
If you have a reaction after eating a particular food, see your doctor to determine whether you have a food intolerance or a food allergy.
If you have a food allergy, you may be at risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) — even if past reactions have been mild. Learn how to recognize a severe allergic reaction and know what to do if one occurs. You may need to carry an emergency epinephrine shot (Adrenaclick, Auvi-Q, EpiPen) for emergency self-treatment.
If you have a food intolerance, your health care provider may recommend steps to aid digestion of certain foods or to treat the underlying condition causing your reaction.