Raleigh, N.C. — Have you ever heard someone say that a person is “a little” allergic to a particular food?
Consumer Reports says there’s no such thing.
A food intolerance is more likely. While some of the symptoms of an allergy and an intolerance are similar, the differences between the two are critical.
A food intolerance affects the digestive system, and allergies attack the immune system.
Helping to identify whether it’s an intolerance or an allergy is important because it can make your quality of life much better, said Dr. Jen Camacho, an allergist.
People with intolerances can eat certain foods without serious consequences. But for someone with an allergy, touching, inhaling or ingesting even a microscopic amount of an allergenic food can be deadly.
If you suspect there’s a problem, see an allergist to make sure it’s not a food allergy, which can be severe and even fatal.
If it’s not a food allergy, it’s important to keep a log of your symptoms, your diet and the foods that make you feel unwell so you can share it with your doctor.
Consumer Reports says an intolerance can stem from a variety of sources, such as celiac disease or a sensitivity to food additives. It may cause discomfort, but it’s not fatal.
You can develop food allergies and intolerances after childhood. Nearly half of those with food allergies in a study reported the onset of a new one in adulthood.
If you have a food allergy, you need to take certain precautions, like carrying medication in case you have a reaction.
If you or a loved one have a food allergy, be careful in the kitchen, especially if you handle utensils tainted with food that might trigger a reaction. And remember to clean surfaces with warm and soapy water and wash your hands properly.