Intolerance or Allergy: How to Tell the Difference?

Do you know the difference between an allergy and intolerance? If not, you must read this article to know how these two are different.

Chanchal Sengar
Written by: Chanchal SengarPublished at: Jul 04, 2021Updated at: Jul 04, 2021
Intolerance or Allergy: How to Tell the Difference?

Allergy and intolerance are often used interchangeably. People do not know the key differences between these two and therefore, they name it whatever comes to their mind. If you experience stomach aches or rash after consuming any food, it is not certainly an allergy. It is more likely to be intolerance towards a food item. Allergies trigger severe symptoms that can even be fatal in some cases. Thus, allergy and intolerance are two totally different conditions. To understand the difference between these two, you must read this article to the end.

First things first, allergy and intolerance affect the body differently. Their symptoms may be the same initially but they differ as the condition advances. While intolerance is normal, allergy badly affects your immune system and can hamper the functions of other organs. Also, digestive issues are generally experienced due to intolerance and not allergies. Let us explain to you in detail.

Food Intolerance

Most commonly, people suffer from dairy food intolerances where they get gastric issues as soon as they consume milk or other dairy products. In general, certain foods don’t suit certain people and so, they avoid consuming them in any form. While this doesn’t cause serious issues, minor discomfort can be experienced.

Food Intolerance

Here are some common causes of food intolerance:

Food intolerance triggers vomiting, stomach ache, cramps, diarrhoea, etc. issues. These are relieved within a couple of hours and you will feel normal.

Food Allergies

Food Allergy symptoms

Allergies, on the other hand, are extremely intense and the symptoms are harsh. You can experience symptoms within minutes of consuming a product. In most cases, people need to take medicines for the allergy. Symptoms won’t subside on their own unless you take medical aid for the same. In most cases, a rapid, severe reaction is triggered. Anaphylaxis is the most common allergic reaction that is caused when you consume something that you are allergic to(for example peanuts, soy). The common allergic reactions include:

  • Swelling of lips, throat and tongue
  • Skin rashes and redness
  • Hives
  • Wheezing
  • Problem in breathing

If the reaction is not controlled on time with medicine or injection, it can become life-threatening.

Apart from food, other things that cause allergic reactions are:

  • Insect venom or insect sting
  • Antibiotics and other drugs
  • Pollen allergy
  • Pet allergies(cats, dogs)
  • Dust allergy

Who are at risk of allergies and intolerances?

Who are at risk of allergies and intolerances

While a person can develop intolerance or allergies at any age, there is a genetic link to it. In most cases, people get an allergy if any of their parents have an allergy. Allergies often develop right from childhood and thus, a person knows that he/she is allergic to something. Common food products such as milk, dairy, soy and nut allergies are diagnosed in childhood itself. There are lesser instances but possible that someone develops a food allergy later in life. This is because their body reacts to something only after they consume it.

Intolerance, on the other hand, can be developed at any stage of life. This may also be genetic but it can be developed over time. Also, food intolerance can be variable where the person may or may not showcase the same intensity symptoms every time.

Also Read: All About Citrus Allergy Symptoms, Foods to Avoid, and More

Diagnosing intolerance and allergies

Diagnosing intolerance and allergies

If you experience any unusual symptoms after consuming a specific food item or coming in contact with any allergen, you must see a doctor and get an allergy test done. Allergy skin testing is a process to find out how your body reacts to an allergen. If you have an allergy, your body would have the presence of allergy antibodies and the blood test would trace these antibodies.

For intolerance, there is no diagnose or medical test as such. One only needs to see the allergy symptoms for a particular food. It is better to keep a food diary or simply make notes of what foods suit you and what don’t along with the allergy symptoms they show.

In a nutshell, allergy and intolerance are two sides of a coin, related yet different. It depends on the symptoms a person exhibits upon consuming food if he/she is allergic to it or intolerant. You must notify the symptoms and then consult a doctor.

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