Allergy to cow’s milk protein is the most common allergy in young children. Fortunately, most resolve spontaneously by the second or third year of life. Meanwhile, parents can be assured that although there is no treatment for this type of allergy, it is controlled by a diet free of milk and its derivatives.
Common milk is made up of proteins, carbohydrates (lactose), fats, vitamins and minerals. In this case the protein is the one that generates the allergic reaction. This allergy can develop both in children fed exclusively with breast milk and in those who take formula. However, those who are exclusively breastfed are less likely to develop allergies of any kind.
Occasionally, babies fed with breast milk may develop an allergy due to the small amounts of protein that pass into breast milk in a mother who does consume cow’s milk and / or its derivatives. In other cases, some babies are sensitized to cow’s milk proteins that are transferred by the mother through breast milk but do not show a reaction until after they start to drink cow’s milk by themselves.
What Are The Symptoms of Cow’s Milk Allergy In Infants?
Babies with an allergy to cow’s milk protein may have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Eczema or a rash (rash) of the skin
- Abdominal pain or colic
Rarely, a serious allergic reaction called “anaphylaxis” may occur. This reaction usually occurs minutes after taking foods that contain milk. The most serious symptom of an anaphylactic reaction is swelling of the face, mouth and tongue that cause respiratory distress. It may be accompanied by skin lesions of the urticaria type, rash with a lot of itching redness of the skin and vomiting are other symptoms that may occur when the anaphylactic reaction occurs. If your child has any of these symptoms, consult your pediatrician urgently because an untreated anaphylactic reaction can be fatal.
How is an allergy to cow’s milk confirmed?
It is essential to confirm the diagnosis for two fundamental reasons: the first is that these symptoms can be caused by other problems that require other treatments; and the second is to limit the risks of suffering an anaphylactic reaction. If your child is allergic to the proteins in cow’s milk, you should make sure to remove all the milk and its derivatives from your diet.
In mild cases the pediatrician will ask you to suspend all the foods derived from the milk for a while and then incorporate them slowly by checking if the symptoms are repeated. In other cases, the pediatrician can refer you to an allergist who will determine the cause of the baby’s symptoms by performing skin tests or special blood tests (Immunoglobulin E).
How is cow’s milk protein allergy treated?
- The baby fed exclusively with breast milk
- You do not need to stop breastfeeding, but you must suspend all dairy products and their derivatives from your own diet.
- The baby fed with formula
In this case your pediatrician will indicate to change it to soy milk or to hydrolyzed formulas. Switching to another formula that also contains milk will not help.
If your baby has a severe allergy to cow’s milk, he may suggest special medications to reduce the allergic reaction (antihistamines) or epinephrine if he accidentally ingests a cow’s milk derivative and starts anaphylaxis.
When can the baby restart dairy products?
As your baby grows, you can reintroduce cow’s milk to the diet as a test, but only on the advice of the pediatrician or allergist. Milk allergy usually gets better as children grow older. The age at which it is safe to reintroduce milk varies from one child to another. The most advisable thing is that your baby has a lactose-free diet at least 12 to 18 months. Intermediate tests can be done every 6 or 8 months by introducing the food one by one if the symptoms are not repeated. Until your doctor says it is safe to give milk, do not try to introduce it on your own.
In cases of anaphylaxis, allergy testing may be necessary before making a decision.
Other foods or products that need to be avoided
When your baby starts solid foods, you need to be careful not to give milk or derivatives while that child is considered allergic. If you have doubts that any food contains milk derivatives, it is better not to give it to them.
The foods you should avoid are the following:
- Any type of cow’s milk or food containing a derivative of cow’s milk (milk low in fat, evaporated, condensed, lactose-free).
- Cheese, yogurt and ice cream.
- Manteca and margarine.
- Soy products containing cow’s milk.
- Precooked or pre-mixed cereals containing cow’s milk.
- Any product that contains:
- Sodium caseinate
- Calcium caseinate
- Potassium caseinate
- Magnetic Caseinate
- Protein hydrolyzate
- Lactic serum
- H4511 (calcium caseinate)
- H4512 (sodium caseinate)
What products can I use to replace the milk in my recipes?
You can substitute the cow’s milk of your recipes for any of the following in equal amounts:
- Fortified soy milk
- Fortified rice milk
- Fruit juice such as apple juice
Can my child’s diet be healthy without milk?
Milk and dairy products have protein, vitamins A and D, riboflavin, calcium and B12. However, there are other foods that contain these nutrients.
Orange juice fortified with calcium, soy milk and rice milk can now be found in most large supermarkets.