Milk is one of the most common food allergies in children. The immune system responds abnormally to the intake of milk or products that contain it.
The most common is the reaction to cow’s milk, but even buffalo milk, goat’s or sheep’s milk can trigger a reaction.
Allergic reaction may occur after a few minutes or a few hours after the intake of the food. The severity of the symptoms may vary from mild to severe, digestive problems, vomiting, hives, respiratory distress and, more rarely, anaphylaxis may occur, which in most serious forms may be lethal (anaphylactic shock).
Symptoms Of Milk Allergy In Babies
Milk allergy symptoms vary depending on the individual, may occur after a few minutes or even hours after ingesting milk or dairy products.
Symptoms that may occur shortly after the consumption of milk include:
- He retched
Symptoms that may take longer may include:
- Colic, in children
- Loss of feces (possible traces of blood)
- Abdominal cramps
- A runny nose
- Cough or trouble
- Excess of tear
- Itching, often around the mouth, skin rash
Symptoms of milk allergy or lactose intolerance?
Anyone who is allergic has developed antibodies against some milk proteins. Generally, after the first exposure to the food, even minimal quantities of milk are sufficient to provide a serious allergic response.
Lactose intolerance does not, however, involve the immune system. Those suffering from this disorder are characterized by the lack of an enzyme (lactase) that serves to digest the specific milk sugar and is also present in dairy products.
Unlike the allergy, where a minimum amount of milk is sufficient to trigger an allergic response, too severe, in intolerance the severity of the symptoms depends on how much food has been taken.
Symptoms of an intolerance are different from those of a true allergy, they may even be after a few hours and include diarrhea, flatulence, and digestive difficulty.
After peanuts and nuts, milk is the most common cause of anaphylaxis. This is a rather dangerous clinical condition, health care needs to be timely. After ingestion of milk or dairy products, a narrowing of the airways may occur, which may also cause respiratory blockage. In addition to breathing difficulties, the subject may experience itching, a decrease in blood pressure and redness in the face.
People who have a milk reaction, regardless of their severity, should consult their physician to undergo tests that confirm or not an allergy to this food.
Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency first aid and requires treatment with an epinephrine (adrenaline). Symptoms start shortly after milk consumption and may include:
- Facial redness
- Constipation of the airways, swollen throat that makes breathing difficult
- Reduced blood pressure, collapse
Children who are allergic to milk are more likely to develop some other health problems, including:
- Allergies to other foods such as eggs, peanuts and soy
- Hay hay, dust mites, pet hair, grass pollen and other substances
All food allergies occur for abnormal functioning of the immune system. The latter identifies some milk proteins as harmful. To defend itself, it begins to produce immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies that serve to neutralize the protein (allergen). Later, when the allergic person comes in contact with these proteins again, the antibodies recognize and report to the immune system that releases histamine and other chemicals that cause the symptoms.
The proteins contained in cow milk that can mainly cause an allergic reaction are:
- The casein is found in the solid part (curd) of the curdled milk
- The whey protein found in the liquid part of the milk (after the rennet)
You may be allergic to one protein or both. Generally, subjects who have a reaction to cow milk also react to that of goat, buffalo or sheep. These are proteins present in many processed foods, so a lot of attention is needed.
In people with milk allergy, the reaction to soybean is less common.
Allergy-induced enterocolitis induced by food proteins (FPIES)
A food allergy can also cause what is sometimes called a delayed food allergy. The most frequently-suspected foods are cow’s milk and soy, more rarely, egg, potatoes, chicken, fish, rice and legumes. It mainly affects early childhood children and is more rare in breastfeeding. After about two to three hours after ingestion of food, vomiting and diarrhea occur.
Contrary to what happens to some food allergies, FPIES usually resolves over time.
The risk of developing a milk allergy may increase in the presence of certain factors:
- Family history. If parents, one or both, suffer from other food allergies or other types of allergies such as urticaria, asthma, eczema or hay fever.
- Age. The most affected are children, although with mature growth the digestive system decreases the likelihood of reaction to milk
- Other allergies. Although milk allergy is often the first to manifest itself, many children also have other allergies.
- Atopic dermatitis. Children suffering from atopic dermatitis are more likely to suffer from a food allergy.
Locating the food responsible for an allergic reaction is not always easy. In order to ascertain a milk allergy, the doctor may:
- Ask for a description of the symptoms
- Do a visit
- Ask to keep a detailed diary of the foods you eat
- Remove the milk from the diet for a while then re-insert it to check for any reactions.
These tests may also be performed:
- Skin test. This is a series of small bites on the skin that contain a small amount of protein in the milk. In the case of allergy, a reaction on the treated area is produced. However, this type of test is not always reliable in identifying a milk allergy.
- Blood analysis. This is an examination of the response of the immune system to milk by measuring the amount of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in the blood. This test is not always accurate either.
If there is no confirmed milk allergy after the tests, your doctor may attempt an oral test by administering foods that may contain milk in increasing quantities.
This is a test to be carried out in a protected environment, in the presence of a physician trained to face the most serious allergic reactions.
There is only one way to avoid an allergic reaction, that of not taking milk and its proteins. Many people, although being allergic to milk, can tolerate it in some forms, such as those found in baked foods or processed foods, such as yogurt (however, be advised by your doctor).
In any case, milk is a common ingredient in many products, so it can be difficult to avoid. If accidentally consumed, drugs such as antihistamines are able to reduce the symptoms of allergic reaction.
In the case of anaphylaxis, it may be necessary to use a first aid kit for an epinephrine injection (adrenaline). When you are seriously at risk of serious reactions, a good idea is to always have this medication available after you have received your doctor’s instructions on how to take it.
The safe prevention of a food allergy is to avoid the cause, so the food that causes it.
It is important to read the food labels. Look for the word “casein” and keep in mind that this protein can also be present in unexpected products, such as in conserved tuna. In the restaurant always ask for the list of ingredients before ordering a dish.
Sources of dairy products
Sour milk proteins are present in dairy products, including:
- Whole milk, lean milk, skim milk, buttermilk
- Ice cream
- Cheese and everything that contains cheese
There are other more difficult sources to identify because they are used as ingredients of processed products, such as salami, cereals and baked goods. Here are some:
- Protein powder
- Some ingredients with spelled
- Milk serum
- Candies such as chocolate, nougat and caramel
- Artificial cheese flavors
Alternatives to baby milk
Some studies argue that breastfeeding during the first four to six months of baby’s life helps prevent milk allergy.
- Breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for the baby. It is recommended for at least the first four to six months of life if possible. This is a good prevention especially if the baby is at high risk of developing a milk allergy.
- Hypoallergenic formulations. These are products that use enzymes to break down (hydrolysis) milk proteins, such as casein or whey. Depending on the level of processing, the products are classified as partially or largely hydrolysed. Some hypoallergenic formulas are not milk based, but contain amino acids. In addition to highly hydrolysed products, amino acid formulas are the ones that are less likely to cause an allergic reaction.
- Soybean formulas are based on soy protein. However, some children with a milk allergy can also develop a soy allergy.
In the case of breast-fed children who have a cow’s milk allergy, it may be necessary for the mother to eliminate all the products that contain milk proteins from her diet.
Indeed, cow’s milk proteins may pass through breast milk and cause an allergic reaction to the baby.
As always, it is important to talk to your doctor.