Though more common in infants anyone can have a milk allergy. An estimated 7% of infants will have an allergy to milk. This isn’t good since milk is used as the base of most commercial baby formulas. Most infants will outgrow the allergy. The immune system mistakes the milk protein for something dangerous and tries to get rid of it causing the infant to be fussy and irritable. The child may develop an upset stomach or other symptoms. Milk allergies are not as common in adults although they do occur.
It is not recommended that cow’s, goat’s or sheep milk be given to children less than one year of age. Previously used for children that were at risk of a cow milk allergy it has been determined that these both alternatives contain allergens similar to those in cows milk.
An allergy to cow’s milk can also cause reactions to goat’s and sheep’s milk. In some cases a reaction to proteins in soy milk may also occur. Breastfed babies are less likely to have a milk allergy that those that are not. The allergy is also believed to be genetic. Most children will outgrow the allergy by the time they are five years old; some children have the allergy all of their lives.
If a milk allergy develops in a breastfed baby your milk intake may need to be altered for their sake. Most children that outgrow the allergy do so after having avoided milk for up to two years.
Having a milk allergy and being lactose intolerant are two different things. Signs of a milk allergy can appear immediately or as many as ten days after having the proteins in cow’s milk. Having a slower reaction is the most common. Loose stools containing blood, throwing up, gagging, the refusal of food, being irritable or colic and the appearance of skin rashes are all signs of an allergy. Any or all of the symptoms could appear. These signs can also be present with other health conditions making a milk allergy hard to diagnose. This form of the allergy may be outgrown by the age of two.
With immediate reactions they are irritable, throwing up, wheezing, swelling, hives and bloody diarrhea. In more severe cases anaphylaxis can occur; although this reaction is more typical of other allergies than it is of a milk allergy. The most common type of immediate reaction is present on the skin within minutes of having had even the smallest amount of milk. There may or may not be respiratory or gastro-intestinal symptoms to go along with the reaction on the skin.
If symptoms are delayed for several hours they are usually limited to vomiting and diarrhea. In cases where they take up to a few days to develop after large amounts of milk have been ingested diarrhea is the main symptom. There may or may not be respiratory or skin reactions present.
Blood loss that is contributed to the allergy could also cause an iron deficiency in some children. As many as half of those with a milk allergy are destined to develop an allergy to proteins in other foods and as many as eighty percent of those will also develop as allergy to grass, pollen, dust mites or cats as well as the milk allergy.
Things that are commonly thought to be cold symptoms such as a runny nose and coughing can also be signs of a milk allergy as well as things such as an ear infection. So it is important to consult your doctor if you suspect an allergy to milk.
Several test may have to be run to determine a milk allergy. A stool test, allergy skin test and an oral challenge test may all be needed to determine if your child is allergic to milk.
It has been required in the UK and the rest of the European Union since November 25, 2005 that food labels clearly state when the product contains milk or any of its ingredients. This applies to all forms of milk that might be present in prepackaged foods.
Dairy products should not be taken out of your child’s diet without first consulting their doctor as they need calcium provided by them.