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Many individuals become confused when trying to recognize food allergy symptoms in themselves or others. Food intolerances can also make recognizing food allergy symptoms difficult.

It’s important to remember that a true food allergy is defined as an immune system response to food proteins and a food intolerance is typically defined as a digestive system response to food proteins. Food allergies and reactions can be life threatening. Food intolerances and reactions usually are not.

The most common food allergy symptoms include:

  • Tingling in the mouth
  • Hives, itching or eczema
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat, or other parts of the body
  • Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting

Life-threatening symptoms, called anaphylaxis, include:

  • Constriction and tightening of airways
  • A swollen throat or a lump in your throat that makes it difficult to breathe
  • Shock, with a severe drop in blood pressure
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or loss of consciousness

Emergency treatment is critical for anaphylaxis.
Untreated, anaphylaxis can cause a coma or death.

Symptoms of food intolerance include:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Gas, cramps, or bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Irritability or nervousness

If you think you or someone you know is experiencing a life threatening allergic reaction; you should follow your allergy action plan if you have one, administer the EpiPen if you have one (and have been told to use it by your allergist) and call for emergency assistance.

Keep in mind that while Benadryl is an antihistamine, it is not a life saving medication and may only delay a life threatening reaction. When in doubt, call your allergist or you local emergency number.

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