The Difference Between an Allergy and an Intolerance

You hear the terms “food allergy” and “food intolerance” all the time, but what exactly do they mean? Are they the same thing? Although both terms describe an adverse physical reaction to food, allergists consider them to be two separate reactions. While they can produce very similar and sometimes identical symptoms, a key difference is that a true food allergy produces a much more serious reaction with possibly life-threatening reactions. If you suspect that you might have an allergy or intolerance to a certain type of food or a food group, (such as peanuts, shellfish, or dairy products), it’s time to visit an allergy doctor in Las Vegas for a diagnosis. Before your appointment, here is some basic information that will help you get a sense for which condition you might have.

What is a Food Allergy?

A true food allergy, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, is a serious problem that causes systemic symptoms: In the case of a food allergy, a person’s reaction may even be life-threatening. The most severe type of physical response to a food allergy is anaphylactic shock, which is the immune system’s overreaction to a substance that you are allergic to. A food allergy comes on suddenly, which can be surprising if you’ve never had problems before. It will produce a reaction every time you eat a certain food, even if you only consume small amounts of it. You may experience a wide variety of symptoms with a food allergy, including nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, headaches, hives, itchy skin, and difficulty breathing. Since food-based Las Vegas allergies can quickly worsen, you should visit an allergist as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms.

What is a Food Intolerance?

A food intolerance, in contrast to a food allergy, develops much more gradually. You might find that you can tolerate small amounts of a troublesome food, but eating larger amounts causes problems. There are a number of possible factors that can cause a food intolerance. Having a sensitivity to food additives, lacking an enzyme needed to digest a certain food, (such as a lactose intolerance), or having a negative psychological association with a specific food are all possible causes of a food intolerance. While a food allergy can produce a wide range of symptoms, including respiratory problems, the symptoms associated with a food intolerance are limited to gastrointestinal (GI) issues.

Having a negative reaction to a food is no fun, and if you have a true food allergy it can even be dangerous. Therefore, if you notice that eating a certain food causes unpleasant symptoms, you should go to an allergist in Las Vegas for an evaluation. An allergist can either do a skin test or a blood test to check for an allergy. Based on the severity of your reaction, you might be prescribed an epinephrine shot to carry in case you accidentally eat a food that you’re allergic to. An allergist can also give you recommendations on how to adjust your diet to account for a new allergy or intolerance. For allergy food testing in the Las Vegas area, contact Tottori Allergy & Asthma Associates 702-240-4233 or visit: to make an appointment with Dr. David H. Tottori, who is the best allergist in Las Vegas and sees patients of all ages.