Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Intolerance vs Allergy

This is a topic that always come up when I am discussing Matilda's allergy with people. There are many misconceptions around food allergies and intolerance and unfortunately something like that can lead to life-threatening situations when you have a child with a severe allergy. So lets break it down...

Is there a difference? 

The answer is yes there is! There is a difference in how your body reacts and the symptoms present in different ways. If you are intolerant, your body struggles to process milk, generally resulting in unpleasant digestive issues. Where as with a milk allergy, your body identifies milk protein as a threat and your immune system kicks into action to fight it, resulting in a range of symptoms, some of which are life-threatening. See my page Is my child allergic? Spotting the signs for more information on the different symptoms for an intolerance and allergy.

What does this difference mean?

This means that someone who is intolerant, can usually consume small amounts of dairy and have no severe effects. Often, people with an intolerance can manage some products containing a small amount of milk within their ingredients but not dairy based products such as milks, cheeses and yoghurts etc. Where as someone with an allergy, can have serious, even life-threatening reactions to the smallest, microscopic amounts of milk. Whether they eat it, touch it or even in extreme causes inhale the food.


In summary, an allergy is an immune system reaction, where as an intolerance is a digestive one. A person with an intolerance can manage a small amount of milk, compared to an allergy where the smallest amount can be life-threatening. This by no means suggests an intolerance shouldn't be taken as seriously as an allergy. Both can result in pain and discomfort for the person if they ingest milk and both require a change of diet and avoidance of dairy. One thing is certain for both of them and that is there needs to be a bigger awareness of what a food intolerance or allergy is. People need to be educated to understand the danger of not checking ingredients properly. It may just be a little bit, but it does do great harm.

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