What is a Food Allergy?

A food allergy is caused by an immune system response to a food that’s perceived by the body as an invader. Histamine is released to combat the supposed invader and kicks off the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

What is a Food Intolerance?

Food allergy and food intolerance are sometimes used interchangeably or perceived as a sliding scale of severity, but they’re quite different from each other. A food intolerance isn’t a reaction of the immune system and it does not happen because of histamine. Instead, a food intolerance is gastrointestinal discomfort after eating certain foods; food intolerances are not dangerous for your infant, just uncomfortable.

How to Tell the Difference Between Food Allergy & Intolerance

Perhaps the easiest way to tell the difference between a food allergy versus a food intolerance is the reaction your infant has to the food. For example, food intolerance causes only gastrointestinal issues; gastro issues are just one possible side effect of an allergic reaction to food.1

Symptoms of food allergy include:

  • Itchy, mouth, and/or throat while eating

  • Swelling of the tongue, face after eating

  • Hives after eating

  • Tummy troubles, including cramping and nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

  • Difficulty breathing

Allergic reactions can be severe, leading to anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock. Signs of anaphylaxis include the above, plus:

  • Extreme and growing swelling of the face, mouth, and/or throat

  • Increasing difficulty breathing and throat tightening

  • Hoarse voice

  • Rapidly dropping blood pressure, which may lead to dizziness or losing consciousness

If your infant experiences anaphylaxis, call for first responders or head to your closest emergency department right away.

Symptoms of food intolerance after eating a triggering food include:

  • Bloated belly

  • Loose stool

  • Gas

Understanding the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance and whether your baby is experiencing any of these conditions is important. If you suspect your baby has cow’s milk protein allergy, talk to your baby’s doctor to better understand whether cow’s milk allergy is the issue and to learn more about allergy-appropriate formulas, such as Nutramigen A+ with LGG.

Related Articles