Allergy and intolerance, what are the differences between the two
Often the terms allergy and intolerance are used as synonyms but are two distinct diseases. In particular, to intolerance means the body’s abnormal reaction to a foreign substance, not mediated by the immune system.
The symptoms that can occur are bothersome and vary in severity, from mild to very serious, even fatal. Antihistamines are often used when there are allergy attacks.
Intolerance can depend on:
- from the release of histamine (e.g., difficulty digesting cow's milk)
- from enzyme deficiency (this is the case with gluten intolerance, which can produce mucosal disruption and subsequent difficulty in absorbing the nutrients needed to live)
- from the toxic action of food components that cause damage to the intestinal wall.
For allergiesa, instead, refers to an abnormal reaction of the immune system that leads to the production of IgE and the release of a substance, histamine, which is primarily responsible for the characteristic symptoms of all allergic reactions; it can present with severe symptoms and result in anaphylactic shock.
Allergies mainly occur during the first 3 years of life: in fact, as new foods are introduced into the child's life, attention should be paid to all possible reactions that occur from a few minutes to a few hours after the food is eaten (vomiting and/or diarrhea, hives, coughing or difficulty breathing, skin redness or rashes, swelling or, in severe cases, loss of consciousness).
Allergies, however, can occur at any age and usually to foods such as cow's milk, egg, soy, wheat, peanuts, nuts, fish and shellfish.
In summary, then, the difference lies in the fact that the reaction to food intolerance is strictly dependent on the amount of the intolerant food ingested and can be more or less serious but never fatal; allergies, on the other hand, can be fatal especially if they lead to anaphylactic shock.