: Milk Protein Allergy
How common is cow's milk protein allergy?
Cow's milk allergy is the most common food allergy in young children.
Fortunately, most babies outgrow milk allergies by their second
or third year. In the meantime, parents of babies with milk allergies
can be reassured that - although there is no treatment that can
cure milk allergies - symptoms can be controlled through a dairy-free
What is cow's milk (protein) allergy?
Regular milk is made up of protein, carbohydrates or sugar, fat,
vitamins and minerals, and water. It's the milk protein that causes
the allergic reaction in cow's milk allergy. Cow's milk protein
allergy can develop in both breastfed and formula-fed children.
However, breastfed children are usually less likely to develop
food allergies of any sort. Occasionally, though, breastfed children
develop cow's milk allergy when they react to the slight amount
of cow's milk protein that's passed along from their mother's
diet into her breastmilk. In other cases, certain babies can become
sensitized to the cow's milk protein in their mothers' breastmilk,
but don't actually have an allergic reaction until they're later
introduced to cow's milk themselves.
What are the symptoms of cow's milk protein allergy?
Babies who develop cow's milk protein allergy may have one or
several of the following symptoms:
Less commonly, some children may have a very serious allergic
reaction called anaphylaxis. This reaction usually occurs within
minutes after eating or drinking food which they're allergic to.
The most serious symptom of an anaphylactic reaction is the swelling
of the face, mouth and tongue leading to difficulty breathing.
Hives, itchy rash and flushing and severe vomiting are other signs
that may be present should an anaphylactic reaction occur If your
child ever has these symptoms, get medical help immediately because
untreated anaphylaxis can quickly become fatal. Fortunately, anaphylaxis
- eczema or skin rash
- abdominal pain or cramps
- or diarrhea
How is Cow's milk allergy confirmed?
There are two very important reasons for making sure that a doctor
evaluates your baby's condition to confirm whether or not your
child has a milk allergy. The first reason is that cow's milk
allergy is not the only cause of abdominal pain, eczema, rash,
vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive crying. These symptoms can be
caused by other conditions, which would need a different treatment.
The second reason is because of the danger of an anaphylactic
reaction. It's extremely important to know for certain if your
child has a cow's milk protein allergy because if he does, you'll
have to be very careful about making sure that all milk and milk
products are removed from his diet. Because each child is unique,
a baby with a suspected milk allergy should have an individualized
medical assessment, treatment plan, and follow up. After the doctor
has carefully reviewed your child's medical history he or she
may recommend that you modify your diet if you're breastfeeding,
or that you switch formulas. In some mild cases, the doctor may
recommend re-introducing milk after a month or so on a dairy-free
diet to see if the child still has symptoms of milk allergy. In
other cases, the doctor may refer the child to an allergist. The
allergist will try to determine the cause of the baby's symptoms
by doing a skin test or by taking a special blood test.
How is cow's milk allergy treated?
If the child has been diagnosed with a severe milk allergy, the
doctor may prescribe special medications in addition to a dairy-free
diet. These medications, such as antihistamines or epinephrine
(Epipen or Ana-kit), are to be used as directed if your child
accidentally consumes dairy products and experiences an allergic
- The breast-fed child
If you're breastfeeding, and your child has been diagnosed
with a cow's milk allergy, you don't need to stop breastfeeding.
In fact, your baby's allergic symptoms can be relieved by
simply removing dairy products from your own diet, as well
as your baby's. Your doctor can advise you about a healthy,
dairy-free diet that would be appropriate for you.
- The formula-fed child
If your child is diagnosed with a milk allergy, and is being
fed milk-based formula, your doctor will probably recommend
switching to either soy-based or hydrolysate formulas. But
simply switching to another type or brand of milk-based formula
won't help, as it's necessary to avoid the cow's milk protein
which is found in all regular formulas.
When can baby re-start dairy products?
As your baby grows older, you may be able to start introducing
cow's milk into the diet - but only on the advice of your physician
or allergist. Infants often outgrow milk allergy, but the age
at which it's safe to re-introduce milk and milk products back
into the diet varies with each individual child. Your doctor will
probably recommend that your child's diet be free of dairy products
for at least the first 12 to 18 months. He or she may then re-test
the child every 6 months until she determines that your baby is
no longer allergic to cow's milk. Once your doctor confirms that
your child has outgrown the milk allergy, make sure to follow
his reccomendations as to how to introduce dairy foods back into
the diet. But until your doctor tells you that it is safe to do
so, don't try to re-introduce milk into your child's diet on your
own. And if milk or milk products ever caused an immediate, severe
reaction - or anaphylaxis - you should never under any circumstances
re-introduce it into your child's diet unless allergy tests have
confirmed that your child has outgrown the allergy. In those severe
cases, it may sometimes be recommended to introduce milk into
your child's diet under close medical supervision like in a hospital
What other foods or products need to be avoided?
When your baby starts eating solid foods, you'll have to be very
careful not to give her cow's milk or any food containing milk
or milk products for as long as she remains allergic to milk.
And if you have any doubts about what's in a particular food,
it's best to play it safe and not give it to your child.
Here's a helpful list of some foods and food ingredients to avoid:
This list only shows you some of the foods to avoid, so be sure
to consult your doctor for more information about which other
foods should be removed from your child's diet.
- Any type of cow's milk or food containing cow's milk (including
skim, dried, solid, evaporated, and condensed)
- Lactaid ®, which is milk that has been specially-processed
for lactose intolerant people. But Lactaid ® still contains
cow's milk protein, and so should not be given to children
with milk allergy.
- Cheese, cheese curds, yogurt, and ice cream
- Butter and buttermilk. Also, many margarines have milk in
them, so be sure to carefully check the ingredients.
- Soy products containing cow's milk. Many of the popular
soy-based products now on the market, such as frozen soy desserts,
actually contain small amounts of cow's milk in them. So again,
be sure to read labels carefully for product ingredients.
- Pre-mixed cereals containing powdered cow's milk
- .. and any products containing casein, caseinate, sodium
and/or calcium caseinate, lactalbumin or whey. These terms
all indicate milk protein.
Can a cow's milk protein allergic child eat beef?
Parents often wonder whether their child can eat beef, since milk
and beef both come from cows. But recent studies have shown that
children with cow's milk protein allergy only rarely have problems
eating beef or veal. Therefore, most milk allergic children can
eat beef without any problem.
What can parents tell their allergic child?
As your child gets older, explain his condition to him in understandable
terms. Teach him to never accept food from friends or other people,
and about how to be cautious without being fearful. Also, be creative
in your preparation of meals, so that they still look and taste
good even though they're dairy-free. Your child will feel more
comfortable with a diet if that's similar to what those around
him are eating.
Other Childhood Illnesses
The information provided in this site is
designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to
replace the advice and care of your child's physician, nor is
it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If
you suspect that your child has a medical condition, always
consult a physician.
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