Monday, 11 April 2016

Allergy Alphabet - Blogging A to Z day 9

When I tell people about Monkey's allergies they quite often tell me that they know someone who is intolerant to whatever. And whilst I'm sure that's horrible and can lead to them being very uncomfortable, it's not quite the same thing.

So today I is for intolerance. How is it different to an allergy? How do you know which you've got?

To understand the difference between an allergy and an intolerance, you really need to be clear about what an allergy actually is.

According to Allergy UK a true food allergy will always involve the immune system. There are two kinds of allergy and this is where it gets confusing.

IgE allergies happen when the immune system releases specific IgE antibodies in an attempt to defend the body from an allergen. Symptoms develop quickly and can be severe and life-threatening. Anaphylaxis is the most severe kind of IgE reaction and requires immediate hospital attention.

Non-IgE allergies are were the confusion occurs. These used to be referred to as intolerances and sometimes still are although this incorrect. They are now recognised as true allergies as whilst they don't release the specific antibodies they do involve the immune system. Symptoms are nore delayed - usually from an hour to three days. Non-IgE allergies are harder to diagnose as they don't show up on blood or skin prick tests.

Monkey has a mix of IgE and non-IgE reactions.

Intolerances do not involve the immune system. Symptoms are often delayed and usually gut type problems. They are not life-threatening but can lead to sufferers feeling very uncomfortable. Unlike allergies, many sufferers can eat problem foods in small amounts - it is when they get a build up that they have problems. Apart from lactose intolerance there is no test available for food intolerances.

Working out whether you have a food intolerance or allergy can be tricky. Many doctors suggest keeping a food and symptoms diary which is something that we still do with Monkey.


  1. I am so glad you decided to cover this. As a nurse so many people don't understand the difference. My daughter is allergic to milk and many people just don't get it. Some people think it is lactose intolerance and will say something like "just deal with the diarrhea, you can't deprive her of ice cream" but it's not that simple. If my daughter has milk she has diarrhea for a week or more and it is so bad her butt gets burned from the acid because she is still in diapers. In addition to the diarrhea, she breaks out and it bothers her so then she scratches and digs at her skin until she breaks the skin. It really is no fun. Again, thanks for helping others learn the difference. Cassie from Mommy, RN

  2. A really useful post - I think there's a lot of confusion generally about the difference between an intolerance and an allergy. And sometimes I think it's fashionable for some (not all) to have one. #mmbc

  3. Thats a great explanation. Im only intolerant and forever explaining to people im not allergic and no i cant have a sip of milk. I also recommend a food dairy it can be very helpful.

  4. Thats a great explanation. Im only intolerant and forever explaining to people im not allergic and no i cant have a sip of milk. I also recommend a food dairy it can be very helpful.

  5. This is a very common problem, so many people don't know the difference. My little man is has allergies of nuts but also is intolerant of random other food. It's educated guess work most of the time! I'm hoping as he gets older the intolerances will fade, but if not, at least if he can start to explain that his tummy is sore etc I will be able to help him more easily. It's so hard when a baby can't tell you what's wrong.

  6. It's fab intolerances aren't life threatening, but the discomfort must be so awful. I can't imagine how much effort you've had to put into finding out what your little one is intolerant to and then learning how to manage it. Well done mum. Can one grow out of them?