Milk Allergy Symptoms + 7 Healthy Ways To Go Dairy Free
Did you know that milk is one of the most common food allergens in existence? Its estimated that between 23 percent of children under the age of 3 have a milk allergy. Experts used to think that these were just temporary baby allergies or infant allergies and kids would outgrow their dairy allergy once they were 3 years old. But research has shown this isnt necessarily the case.
In fact, at least one study has demonstrated that less than 20 percent of children outgrew their milk allergy by time they turned 4 years old. While 80 percent may outgrow it by the age of 16, thats still leaving a whole lot of adults who are dealing with a milk allergy for the rest of their lives. The good news is that there are a lot of natural ways to deal with this common food allergy.
What Is Milk Allergy
If you have a cow’s milk allergy, you are allergic to one of the many proteins in milk, often casein or whey protein. It means that you cant tolerate milk and should avoid any kind of milk or dairy products.
A milk allergy is a malfunction in an abnormal overreaction by the body’s immune system to milk protein. Milk protein is normally harmless, but if you have a milk allergy, your immune system will react to milk protein as if it is a sickness that it needs to get rid of. If you have a milk allergy, you should therefore avoid milk, yogurt, cheese, butter and all other types of dairy or products containing milk protein.
Between 2% and 6% worldwide are estimated to be allergic to milk protein according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation FAO. However, while a milk allergy is developedwithin the first year of a baby’s life, most children will have outgrown the milk allergyby the time they are five years old.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Milk Allergy
Your doctor will examine you. They will ask you questions about your history. They will ask you what happens when you eat/drink foods with milk. If they suspect an IgE-mediated milk allergy, they may order allergy testing to help confirm the diagnosis. A skin prick test or a blood test known as a specific IgE test may be used by your doctor to diagnose this food allergy. Allergy testing is generally not helpful or suggested for non-IgE-mediated reactions.
Another test called an oral food challenge may be done by an allergist to diagnose a milk allergy or confirm if the allergy has been outgrown. There are other conditions that may be triggered by cows milk, so you may also receive a referral to a gastroenterologist .
Don’t Miss: Should I Stop Taking Antibiotics If I Get A Rash
What Causes Lactose Intolerance
The body digests lactose using a substance called lactase. This breaks down lactose into 2 sugars called glucose and galactose, which can be easily absorbed into the bloodstream.
People with lactose intolerance do not produce enough lactase, so lactose stays in the digestive system, where it’s fermented by bacteria.
This leads to the production of various gases, which cause the symptoms associated with lactose intolerance.
Depending on the underlying reason why the body’s not producing enough lactase, lactose intolerance may be temporary or permanent.
Most cases that develop in adults are inherited and tend to be lifelong, but cases in young children are often caused by an infection in the digestive system and may only last for a few weeks.
Who Gets A Milk Allergy
In this article, milk refers specifically to cows milk and not to other types of milk such as soymilk, rice milk, goats milk, etc., unless otherwise specified.
Milk is one of the most common food allergens. An allergen is a food that causes an allergic reaction, such as hives, swelling, and trouble breathing. Although a milk allergy occurs most often in young children, it can appear at any age. The allergic reaction can be triggered by milk-containing foods that had been previously eaten without any problems.
A milk allergy can develop in both formula-fed and breastfed infants. Some infants have a type of cows milk allergy commonly referred to as cows milk protein allergy, which causes blood in the stool. Other infants have an allergic reaction that includes immediate symptoms, such as hives and vomiting. In both cases, many infants will outgrow the symptoms during childhood.
A milk allergy is not the same thing as lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in many dairy products. This leads to bloating and diarrhea after eating or drinking lactose-containing foods. Lactose intolerance is uncommon in infants and young children and is more common in adults.
You May Like: Fexofenadine Versus Loratadine
Milk Allergy Vs Lactose Intolerance
Learn about the differences between milk allergy and lactose intolerance.
Milk allergy should not be confused with lactose intolerance.
A food allergy happens when your immune system overreacts to a specific food protein. When you eat or drink the food protein, it can trigger an allergic reaction. Symptoms can range from mild to severe . A food allergy can be potentially life-threatening.
Unlike food allergies, food intolerances do not involve the immune system. People who are lactose intolerant are missing the enzyme lactase. Lactase breaks down lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products. As a result, people with lactose intolerance are unable to digest these foods. They may experience symptoms such as nausea, cramps, gas, bloating and diarrhea. While lactose intolerance can cause great discomfort, it is not life-threatening.
How Can I Prevent Milk Allergy Reactions
Milk can be found in almost any type of food. Foods that contain milk include ice creams, frozen desserts, cakes, pies, cookies, cream sauces, pasta dishes, casseroles, mashed potatoes, meat that is breaded, and so much more.
Milk allergy can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis . The only way to avoid an allergic reaction is to remove milk from your diet. This includes all milk products, as well as lactose-free versions of milk products.
But you can successfully manage your milk allergy. This can be done by:
- Working with your doctor
- Reading labels
- Being aware of cross-contact
- Clearly communicating with school staff, people who prepare your food, and babysitters and other caregivers
Reading Labels for Milk Ingredients
Under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act , food companies must label their products clearly if they contain milk.
When reading labels for milk, look for milk to be labeled either in parentheses after an ingredient in the ingredient list or in a statement under the ingredient list. For example:
- Contains: Milk
Sometimes milk may appear in bold print in the ingredient list too. To avoid milk in foods and other products, it helps to learn the different names of milk .
If a food item does not have a label, you cant read it, or you have any doubts, dont eat it. Always read the entire label every time. Food companies may change their recipes.
- Pet food
- Food served in restaurants, cafeterias, or other food service providers
Don’t Miss: Allergy Pill Names
How Is Cows Milk Allergy Different To Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is when the body has trouble digesting lactose . It can cause symptoms including diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain and gas . It is different to cow’s milk allergy, which is when the immune system reacts to protein in milk. Lactose intolerance does not cause rashes or anaphylaxis.
Stomach Pain And Bloating
Stomach pain and bloating are common symptoms of lactose intolerance in both children and adults.
When the body is unable to break down lactose, it passes through the gut until it reaches the colon .
Carbohydrates such as lactose cannot be absorbed by the cells lining the colon, but they can be fermented and broken down by the naturally occurring bacteria that live there, known as the microflora .
This fermentation causes the release of short-chain fatty acids, as well as the gases hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide .
The resulting increase in acids and gases can lead to stomach pain and cramps. The pain is usually located around the navel and in the lower half of the tummy.
The sensation of bloating is caused by an increase of water and gas in the colon, which causes the gut wall to stretch, also known as distention .
Interestingly, the amount of bloating and pain is not related to the amount of lactose ingested, but to the sensitivity of the individual to feelings of distention. Therefore, the frequency and severity of symptoms can vary significantly between individuals (
Itâs important to note that stomach pain and bloating are common symptoms that could result from other causes, such as overeating, other kinds of malabsorption, infections, medications and other illnesses.
Also Check: Does Mucinex Help Allergies
Dairy Allergy Symptoms In Adults
Dairy allergy symptoms in adults are less common than in children, but they have a tendency to be more persistent.Skin, respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms may occur separately or they may overlap. In the most severe cases of dairy allergy, anaphylaxis is a life-threatening symptom. An article in the March 2007 issue of “Small Ruminant Research” notes that cow milk contains more than 20 proteins that can cause allergic reactions 2.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Rapid Onset Allergic Reactions To Cows Milk And Other Dairy Foods
Rapid onset allergic reactions usually occur within 15 minutes and sometimes up to two hours after consuming cow’s milk or other dairy foods. Symptoms include one of more of the following:
- Mild or moderate allergic reactions such as hives , swelling of the lips, face or eyes, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.
- Severe allergic reactions include noisy breathing or wheeze, tongue swelling, throat swelling or tightness, hoarse voice, loss of consciousness and floppiness in babies or young children. Anaphylaxis should always be treated as a medical emergency, requiring immediate treatment with adrenaline and calling for an ambulance.
Diagnosis of allergic reactions is usually obvious if symptoms occur soon after consuming cows milk or other dairy foods. This can be confirmed by your doctor after taking a medical history and using allergy tests.
Allergy tests that measure allergen specific antibodies called Immunoglobulin E to cows milk are usually positive for rapid onset reactions. There is no place in the diagnosis of cows milk allergy by unproven tests such as IgG, Vega, kinesiology, Alcat or allergy elimination tests.
Recommended Reading: Is Pseudoephedrine An Antihistamine
Testing For Dairy Allergy
Skin prick test: A small drop of liquid containing the dairy allergen is placed under your skin on your forearm or back. If a raised bump surrounded by itchy red skin appears, a dairy allergy is likely.
Both tests can have âfalse positives.â You can test positive for an allergy even though you really donât have it. Your allergist will explain the results.
If an allergy is still suspected but not confirmed, your doctor may have you take an oral challenge. Youâll be fed different foods that may or may not contain milk in increasing amounts to see if you react to food that contains milk.
Signs And Symptoms Of A Dairy Allergy
A dairy or milk allergy reaction can be immediate or occur up to three days after consuming dairy. These delayed responses make the allergy difficult to diagnose, as people may not associate their symptoms with the bowl of cows milk ice cream they ate three days prior. Symptoms range from mild and uncomfortable to severe and life-threatening.
Immediate Allergic Reactions to Milk and Dairy
Those who experience immediate allergic reactions to dairy are generally aware of their allergy. These symptoms include wheezing, rash, lip-swelling, and anaphylaxis.
4 Delayed Allergic Reactions to Milk and Dairy
Delayed allergies may take up to three days for symptoms to manifest. Those who experience delayed allergic reactions often report thick note syndromes . The symptoms triggered by a dairy allergy may often look like disease and can seem elusive given their delayed response. The unifying mechanism underlying all these symptoms is inflammation. A dairy allergy can lead to an overworked immune system and chronic inflammation in the body.
1. Eczema, Acne, and Other Skin Complaints
There are now multiple studies that support a link between acne and dairy consumption. A dairy allergy can also cause a delayed reaction manifesting as eczema. While more research is needed, those with chronic skin issues tend to report clearer skin after eliminating dairy from their diets.
2. Joint pains
3. Asthma, Sinus Issues, and Other Respiratory Problems
4. Fatigue and Weight Loss Resistance
You May Like: Levocetirizine Versus Cetirizine
When To Seek Medical Advice
The symptoms of lactose intolerance can be similar to several other conditions, so it’s important to see your GP for a diagnosis before removing milk and dairy products from your diet.
For example, the symptoms above can also be caused by:
- irritable bowel syndrome a long-term disorder that affects the digestive system
- milk protein intolerance an adverse reaction to the protein in milk from cows
If your GP thinks you have lactose intolerance, they may suggest avoiding foods and drinks containing lactose for 2 weeks to see if your symptoms improve.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Food Intolerance Or Allergy
Symptoms such as nausea, stomach pain and diarrhea are characteristic of both allergies and intolerances. Additional allergy symptoms may include rash or hives, itchy skin, shortness of breath, chest pain, swelling of the airways to the lungs and anaphylaxis. Intolerances may also cause additional symptoms to those already noted above such as gas, cramps, bloating, vomiting, heartburn, headaches and irritability or nervousness.
Diagnosing milk allergies in adults is not always straightforward since adults can develop them in the absence of any childhood history of allergies. In addition to clinical allergy tests, many doctors are now recommending elimination diets as an effective diagnostic tool for dairy allergies and intolerances. They have found that this method is simple, free, highly effective, and tailored to the individual.
Also Check: Popcorn Allergy Symptoms
How Can I Make Sure My Child Gets Enough Nutrition On A Milk
Mammal milk supplies a good source of many nutrients kids need for bone growth and general health. These include protein, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and phosphorus. Human breastmilk provides the nutrition babies and young children need to grow. Cows milk products are a common replacement for this nutrition in children are not breastfed or who are weaning.
If human milk or cows milk are not in a childs diet, they may lose important nutrients. You will need to choose foods with care to replace these lost nutrients. Meats, poultry, eggs, fish, nuts, and legumes can provide protein. But to replace calcium, your child may need to eat a lot of milk-free food sources that have calcium. This may be more than a young child can eat.
For example, one cup of leafy greens has as much calcium as four ounces of milk. A child who needs 500 milligrams of calcium a day would need to eat four cups of leafy greens. Most children would not be able to eat that much. Read labels carefully to find a variety of foods that have calcium. Work with your childs doctor and/or registered dietitian to make sure your child has a balanced diet.
If your child is no longer on breastmilk or formula, they may need dietary supplements. A milk alternative may offer needed nutrients if your child is over 1 year old, such as:
- Soy milk
- Fortified grain or seed milks
- Fortified nut milks
- Fortified coconut milk
- Toddler formula or fortified drinks
How Common Are Milk Allergies
It was previously thought that milk allergies occurred only in infants, and that the problem subsided prior to adulthood. Unfortunately, for many of us this just isnt so. The numbers are all over the board, but it is estimated that anywhere from 2 to 7.5% of infants have an allergy to cows milk. Studies show that approximately 60% of infants allergic to cows milk will outgrow the allergy by the age of 4, 80% by the age of 6. Bonus for those people, but this leaves up to 4.5 million people in the U.S. alone with a potential milk allergy. This is more than just a few people by our estimates. To complicate things further, it seems that it is possible for adults to develop a milk allergy with no childhood history of allergies. Another interesting fact, symptoms associated with milk allergy have the potential to morph over time. One study followed a group of milk allergic children and found that at the beginning of the study most of the children had primarily gastrointestinal symptoms , but by the end of the study, many had switched over to respiratory symptoms such as wheezing.
Recommended Reading: Over The Counter Nasal Spray For Allergies
Dietary Restrictions For Cows Milk Allergy Should Be Supervised
Exclusion and reintroduction of cow’s milk and other dairy foods should only be undertaken with advice from a medical specialist , particularly in cases of anaphylaxis. If long-term exclusion is required, an alternative source of calcium and protein is needed, to ensure adequate nutrition and growth.
Excluding foods from the diet during breastfeeding is rarely required, and if recommended, the maternal nutritional intake should be supervised, assessed and reviewed by a dietitian. Assessment and review by a dietitian is also recommended for babies and children who need to exclude cows milk and other dairy foods.
Formula For Babies With Milk Allergies
Most pediatricians recommend soy-based formulas with added vitamins and minerals for babies allergic to milk.
If symptoms dont improve after a switch to soy, hypoallergenic formulas are available. These include extensively hydrolyzed formulas in which proteins have been broken down so they are less likely to cause a reaction.
The other type of hypoallergenic formula commonly used is known as an elemental formula, in which only the simplest forms of protein are used.
Recommended Reading: Claritin Plus Benadryl