A milk allergy is an adverse immune reaction to one or more of the protein constituents- such as casein- of milk from any animal. The body manifests either an antibody-based immune response or a cell-based immune response to these allergens. Antibody responses are usually rapid and can involve anaphylaxis which is a potentially life-threatening condition. Cell-mediated responses take hours to days to appear.
There are two main proteins in cow’s milk that can cause an allergic reaction:
- Casein, found in the solid part (curd) of milk that curdles.
- Whey, found in the liquid part of milk that remains after milk curdles.
Milk allergy is more common in children. You or your child may be allergic to only one milk protein or both. These proteins may be hard to avoid because they’re also in some processed foods. And, the most people who react to cow’s milk will react to goat’s and buffalo’s milk as well. People allergic to cow’s milk can also be allergic to soy milk but it is less common.
Signs and Symptoms
Milk allergy symptoms, which differ from person to person, occur in a few minutes to a few hours after drinking milk or eating milk products.
- Abdominal cramps
- Skin rash
- Intermittent coughing
- A runny nose or sinus infection
- Failure to thrive (slow to gain weight or height)
Symptoms that occur quickly within seconds to hours may include:
- Anaphylactic shock causing swelling of the throat and mouth, which leads to a drop in blood pressure, impede breathing and can lead to cardiac arrest.
Food allergies are caused due to the malfunction of an immune system. Your immune system identifies certain milk proteins as harmful, triggering the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to neutralize the protein (allergen). The next time you come in contact with these proteins, IgE antibodies recognize them and signal your immune system to release histamine and other chemicals causing allergic reactions.
Avoidance of milk or items containing milk products is the only way to manage a milk allergy. People who are allergic to milk and the parents who have this allergy must read ingredient labels
If your child is allergic to milk, make sure he/she gets the calories and nutrients he/she needed. You can try dairy substitutes such as rice milk, oat milk or almond milk
Dairy products are an important source of calcium, protein, and vitamins D and B12. If you or your child has a milk allergy, foods such as broccoli, spinach, and soy products can help fill the void.
There is no sure way to prevent a milk allergy, but you can prevent reactions by avoiding the food that causes them such as milk and milk products.
Difference between Milk allergy and Lactose intolerance
People with a milk allergy experience symptoms because their immune system reacts to milk and other dairy products. This reaction can cause hives, an upset stomach, vomiting, bloody stools and even anaphylactic shock.
People with lactose intolerance cannot digest the sugar in milk because they have a deficiency of lactase, an enzyme produced by cells in the lining of the small intestine. Lactase is required to metabolize lactose. Lactose intolerance causes symptoms such as abdominal gas, diarrhea or abdominal cramps.