Milk allergies are some of the most common food allergies, striking thousands of children every year. Unlike lactose intolerance, there are specific allergy symptoms involved that usually manifest themselves within minutes to hours after drinking milk. While these symptoms are generally not severe, they can be quite uncomfortable and unpleasant.
While cow’s milk is the most common allergy trigger, some children can also develop an allergy to goats, sheep’s or buffalo milk. This makes substitution with another type of milk impractical. Even soy milk, which is often used as an alternative for allergic individuals, may not work as some children can also develop an allergy to soy.
There is a distinct difference between milk allergies and lactose intolerance. An allergy to milk most often affects children whose digestive systems are not fully developed. Lactose intolerance is a negative reaction of the digestive system to a protein found in milk. Intolerance can develop at any age and usually results in digestive issues such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea after drinking milk or eating dairy products.
According to the Mayo Clinic milk allergy symptoms, which can differ from person to personand occur anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours after drinking milk or eating milk products.
Immediate signs and symptoms of milk allergy might include:
- Itching or tingling feeling around the lips or mouth
- Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
- Coughing or shortness of breath
Signs and symptoms that may take more time to develop include:
- Loose stools or diarrhea, which may contain blood
- Abdominal cramps
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Colic, in babies
In some rare cases, an allergy to milk may cause anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that can cause the individual to stop breathing.
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent milk allergies short of avoiding all milk and milk products. This can be particularly difficult as milk is a common ingredient in many processed foods and recipes.
You may need to be extra vigilant, paying close attention to product labels and asking about food content when you are eating in a restaurant. A little extra caution now can prevent a lot of heartache for you and your child.
While there are some risk factors for developing food allergies, including a genetic predisposition and the tendency to have other allergies, it may be impossible to know for sure that your child is allergic until he ingests milk. Some experts believe that breastfeeding rather than using a cow’s milk formula for the first four months of life can help to reduce a child’s risk of developing an allergy to milk.
The good news on milk allergies is that they are often reduced or even eliminated entirely as the child grows. As they are exposed to more types of food, their digestive system can develop more tolerance and symptoms will naturally abate.
In the meantime, there are medications such as antihistamines that can be used to treat symptoms of an allergic attack. If your child has a tendency to experience anaphylaxis, you should equip him with an epinephrine pen for emergency use.
Food allergies, such as those involving milk and dairy products, can be an uncomfortable fact of life for many children and adults, but they don’t have to take over your life. With the proper precautions, the allergy sufferer can live a full and productive life, free of symptoms.
Wishing you the best of health
The Allergy Store – Helping customers since 1989