Members of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology say a food intolerance occurs when the digestive system is unable to properly breakdown the food.
However, allergic reactions involve food and other triggers that cause the immune system to react. Symptoms can range from a mild rash or stomachache to swelling of the throat and difficulty breathing.
"There is a big difference between food intolerance and food allergy, and that difference can have serious consequences," Dr. S. Allan Bock, vice chairman of the academy, says in a statement. "Consuming a food you are intolerant to can make you feel miserable for a while. However, if you are allergic to an ingredient, your body's reaction could be life threatening."
Signs of allergy include: rash or red, itchy skin, stuffy or itchy nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhea, swelling, cough, wheezing or difficulty breathing.
Someone with a serious allergic reaction -- anaphylaxis -- marked by difficulty breathing, dizziness or loss of consciousness -- needs immediate medical care. Call 911, Bock advises.