Food allergies can be serious business. If you ever have reactions, even if they’re mild, it’s important to understand what the cause of it is. Here’s everything you need to know about allergies and intolerances.

The difference between an intolerance and allergy 

“Allergies are an immune system reaction to the proteins found in specific foods, whereas intolerances are digestive problems. Both allergies and intolerances can result in similar types of symptoms, so they can be difficult to differentiate,”says Dietician and Enjoy Life Foods Ambassador, Melanie McGrice. Allergies are diagnosed with skin prick testing or blood tests, and intolerances can be found through an elimination diet. However, McGrice says it’s best to see an allergist or dietician as they will give you a more definitive answer.

Food allergy symptoms

“Symptoms of an allergic reaction vary depending on the severity of the reaction the person is having,” she says. According to McGrice, you can have mild to moderate reactions like swelling of the face, lips and eyes; tingling in the mouth and swelling of the lips; hives and welts anywhere on the body; stomach pain and vomiting.

“It’s important to note that a mild to moderate reaction can quickly escalate to anaphylaxis, even for those who have only ever had mild reactions previously, which is why diagnosis is key,” she explains.

A severe reaction can lead to swelling of the tongue and difficulty talking/hoarse voice; swelling/tightness in the throat; difficulty breathing or noisy breathing, as well as wheezing or coughing; dizziness or collapsing.

Symptoms of an intolerance?

“Symptoms can be different from individual to individual, but include bloating, constipation, diarrhoea and nausea,” McGrice tells us.

How to treat someone with anaphylaxis

According to the Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website, you should lay them down (if they’re having trouble breathing, they can sit up). Give adrenaline with an EpiPen and call an ambulance. Head to their website here for more info.

Common allergies

“The most common are milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy,” says McGrice.

McGrice’s tips for allergy and intolerance sufferers:

Learn how to read food labels – Be aware of ingredients in foods that you may be allergic or intolerant to.

See a health care professional – It’s important for anyone with a food allergy to be under the care of an allergy specialist. If you’re pregnant or planning to conceive, a dietician can advise you on the best strategy on how to minimise the risk of your child developing food allergy.

Download a toilet finder app – If you suffer from food intolerances, you want to be able to find the closest loo asap. Apps like National Public Toilet Map are free.

Keep nutritious snacks in your handbag – For occasions where you may not be able to access allergen-free foods.

Know the signs and symptoms – It’s important for all Australians to know the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction to food to help keep those with food allergy safe.

Know what to do in an emergency – Knowing how to respond if someone has anaphylaxis could save their life.

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