Knowing the difference between food allergies and food intolerances can be the difference between a minor inconvenience and a fatal condition.
Some people are more sensitive to certain foods such as lactose, and can produce gas and other side effects when ingested. Food intolerances are usually not life threatening and easily manages by limiting or trying eliminate the suspect food from your diet. Mild intolerances can sometimes be managed with over the counter remedies that will diminish the sensitivity of your body to the food while still allowing you to enjoy them in moderate amounts.
Food allergies on the other hand are a much more serious matter. If a person is allergic to certain foods, such as nuts and happen to ingest them, the immediate intervention of medical attention can be necessary. The negative effects can be immediate and life threatening. Food allergies can produce serious side effects such as rashes and hives or even produce internal swelling that can cut off air passages and even cause death.
It is often common practice for people to refer to foods that they have any adverse reaction to as being foods that they are allergic to. While this might be accepted as a matter of speech, the reality of the two conditions puts them worlds apart. If allergies are not given medical attention from the offset of symptoms, the results can be far more disastrous than bad gas or the flu like symptoms produced by food intolerance.
Allergies are usually discovered by either exposure and reaction to the item or through testing for specific allergens in a lab setting. The best situation to be in is to find out through communication with your health care provider and not by having an adverse reaction to any given allergen.
If you have known allergies, one of the best things that you can do is invest in a medical bracelet with you known allergies listed on in the case of accidental ingestion. They are inexpensive, there use is widely accepted and known, and if you are unable to communicate by speaking can save your life. If you were to ingest peanuts at a restaurant unknowingly, and you had an allergic reaction and was unable to explain your condition to those around you, a medical bracelet would allow those around to summon medical attention with information that could save your life.