Food Allergy—It's Nothing to Sneeze At
The term food allergy is often misapplied, leading many people to believe that they are allergic to certain foods. A more accurate term would be food intolerance for many of these people. Food allergy symptoms can be caused either by a true allergic reaction to food or by simple food intolerance to specific components of a food. Symptoms of adverse reactions to food range from an upset stomach to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Identification and avoidance of any foods that trigger a reaction is the only cure available for food allergy.
A food allergy refers to a specific allergic reaction that involves the immune system, is triggered by a particular food, and is reproducible. In other words, the same symptoms—for example, wheezing or rash—must occur each time the food is eaten. It can also be called a hypersensitivity reaction as the immune system is very sensitive to the food.
Food intolerance, on the other hand, is an adverse reaction to a food and does not involve the immune system. Food intolerance may be inconsistent; reactions to the suspected food may vary in severity with each exposure, or may not occur at all.
Last reviewedDecember 2012by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.