Allergy or Intolerance?

Food Hypersensitivity

Food hypersensitivity is an umbrella term used to describe all adverse reactions to food and it includes both allergies and intolerances.


However, the importance of accurately differentiating an allergy from intolerance is well recognised by the World Allergy Organisation. 1

  • An allergy is defined as the abnormal reaction of the immune system to one or more of the proteins found in a food e.g. cows’ milk protein allergy
  • An intolerance is an adverse reaction to a food that does not elicit an immune response e.g. lactose intolerance. 2

Given that allergies and intolerances are separate conditions it is extremely important to confirm which of the conditions the infant may be suffering from as the conditions will require very specific management and treatment plans going forward.




  1. Johansson S et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2004; 113(5):832-36.
  2. Skypala I, Venter C (eds). Food Hypersensitivity. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.