What is a milk allergy?
One of the most frequent forms of food allergies is milk allergy. Your immune system overreacts to one or more proteins in the milk you’ve consumed. (eaten or drunk). The most prevalent cause of a milk allergy is cow’s milk. Other forms of animal milk, such as goat’s milk and sheep’s milk, may, however, trigger your immune system to respond.
As a consequence of an immune system response, you may develop a real milk allergy. There are also additional responses to meals, such as:
- Milk protein intolerance in infants.
- Lactose intolerance in older children and adults.
Milk allergies may be fatal. If you are experiencing severe allergic reaction symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, contact 911 (or your local emergency number) or go to the closest emergency hospital (ER) very away.
Who does a milk allergy affect?
Anyone of any age may develop a milk allergy. However, it is more frequent among children under the age of 16. Many youngsters who are allergic to milk will outgrow it. Almost all milk protein intolerance newborns eventually outgrow their symptoms.
In both formula-fed and breastfed (chestfed) newborns, milk allergies may develop.
How common is a milk allergy?
Milk allergies are rather prevalent. A milk allergy affects around 2% of all children in the United States.
How does a milk allergy affect my body?
An allergic response to milk occurs in your body. An allergic reaction occurs when your body reacts to an allergen.
If you are allergic to milk, your body reacts by producing immunoglobulin E (IgE) after your first contact to it. IgE antibodies are produced by your immune system. Your body produces several distinct forms of IgE, each of which targets a particular kind of allergen. Mast cells (allergy cells) in your skin, respiratory tract (airways), and cardiovascular system attach to IgE antibodies. Histamine is released when they come into contact with milk proteins. Histamine is the substance that produces allergic symptoms.
IgE responses occur rapidly after consuming milk. Anaphylaxis, a severe allergic response that may lead to death, is one of the possible reactions.
Other milk responses are not caused by the allergy antibodies. Your milk response is slower than an IgE-mediated reaction. It might take up to 48 hours to form.
Milk is one of the most prevalent non-IgE triggers in infants. Most non-IgE food allergies, including milk, are not fatal. Milk protein intolerance is one of the possible reactions.
Why did I suddenly become allergic to milk?
Healthcare practitioners and medical experts aren’t sure why individuals acquire milk allergies all of a sudden.
Symptoms and Causes
What does a milk allergy look like?
A milk allergy generally manifests itself within minutes of consumption.
The degree of symptoms varies from person to person. Mild signs and symptoms may include:
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Abdominal pain.
- Lips, tongue, or throat tingling or swelling.
Anaphylaxis is one of the most severe symptoms. Anaphylaxis may be fatal if not treated immediately. Other serious symptoms that may occur include:
- Chest tightness.
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea).
- Difficulty breathing.
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).
- Rash (contact dermatitis).
- Drop in blood pressure (hypotension).
- Loss of consciousness (syncope).
What causes a milk allergy?
Proteins in milk trigger your immune system to respond if you have a milk allergy. In milk, there are two forms of protein:
- Casein Casein (kay-SEEN) is a byproduct of milk that solidifies when it spoils. (curdles). It may also be found in cheese and yogurt. It makes up around 80% of the protein in milk and gives it its white hue.
- Whey . When milk curdles, whey is produced as a byproduct. It makes about 20% of the protein in milk.
You might be allergic to one or both proteins.
Is a milk allergy contagious?
No, milk allergies are not communicable. A milk allergy cannot be passed on to another individual.
Diagnosis and Tests
How do you know you are allergic to milk?
If you experience signs of a milk allergy, see your doctor. They may recommend that you see an allergist. An allergist is a doctor who specializes in allergies. Through testing, they may assist you in determining whether you have a milk allergy.
Before doing milk allergy testing, they may ask you the following questions:
- Is there anybody else in your biological family who is allergic to milk or other foods?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with food allergies by a doctor?
- What are your symptoms?
- Do you manage your symptoms using over-the-counter (OTC) medications?
- When do you notice your symptoms start to appear?
- Do you keep a food journal?
What tests will be done to diagnose a milk allergy?
Based on your symptoms, an allergist may perform several allergy tests to help identify a milk allergy. Among these tests are:
During a blood test, your allergist will extract a little quantity of blood from a vein in your arm using a thin needle (slightly less than the size of a normal earring post). A blood sample is sent to a laboratory. The lab adds milk proteins to your blood sample and tests it for IgE antibodies.
A blood test might take a week or more to get findings.
Skin prick (scratch) test
Small quantities of milk proteins are introduced into your body during this test.
Your allergist will first use iodine or alcohol to clean a test spot of your skin. Typically, the test region is on your forearm or upper back.
Your allergist will prick your skin with a fine needle (lancet) and a little quantity of liquid containing milk proteins. The lancet will not penetrate your skin deeply. You’ll simply feel a little squeeze and will not bleed.
Some allergists may do skin tests in a different manner. A droplet of liquid milk proteins is applied to your skin. They then delicately scrape your skin with a lancet. Through the scrape, the droplets will penetrate your skin. You will simply experience little pain and will not bleed.
Aside from milk allergens, the allergist will use a positive and negative control on your skin. Controls assist an allergist in comparing responses. A positive control often includes a histamine solution that, after a few minutes, generates an itching, raised reaction on your skin. A negative control is often a saline solution that does not elicit a reaction.
You’ll have to wait 15 minutes after the skin test. The allergist will next use a ruler to measure any darkened patches on your skin caused by the milk test or the controls.
A skin prick test takes less than an hour.
Graded oral challenge
Your allergist may prescribe a graded oral challenge to firmly confirm a milk allergy. (food challenge). This may be essential if your food allergy history and tests do not match.
During a graded oral challenge, you will consume a tiny quantity of milk. Your allergist will then monitor you to see whether a response occurs. You may gradually increase your milk consumption to watch how your body responds.
A graded oral challenge may take up to four hours.
Management and Treatment
How is a milk allergy treated?
If you have a milk allergy, the only method to avoid a response is to avoid milk and milk-containing products. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States mandates all food producers to clearly state all common food allergies on product labels.
You should also be aware that certain non-milk items may share manufacturing facilities with milk products. Look for labels that read “Made in a milk-processing facility” or “Manufactured on milk-processing equipment.”
Because many children outgrow their milk allergy, therapy for this dietary allergen is often unneeded. If your child’s allergy does not seem to be improving, consult an allergist about food desensitization therapies such as oral immunotherapy. (OIT).
What foods and drinks should I avoid if I have a milk allergy?
If you are allergic to milk, you should avoid the following foods:
- Condensed, dry, evaporated, and powdered milk are all examples of milk.
- Other mammals’ milk, such as goats and sheep.
- Butter, comprising butter fat, butter oil, and butter flavoring.
- Cottage cheese and curds.
- Custard, pudding and yogurt.
- Sour cream.
Many persons with milk allergies may handle milk-containing baked foods such as muffins and cake. Before attempting any milk-containing baked items, consult with a healthcare physician.
People who are sensitive to milk may have an allergic response after eating beef in rare situations.
How can I get vitamins and nutrients if I don’t drink milk?
Milk and milk products are significant sources of vitamins and minerals for many individuals, including vitamin D and calcium. If you are allergic to milk, it is important to consume alternative foods high in these vitamins and minerals, such as spinach and broccoli.
Speak with a certified nutritionist. They will assist you in eating a healthy, well-balanced diet.
What medications are used to treat a milk allergy?
If you have a milk allergy, your doctor should give you an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen®). Anaphylaxis symptoms are swiftly reversed with epinephrine. When and how to use this equipment will be explained by the provider. You should always have your epinephrine injector on hand.
Epinephrine is not required for those who have a milk intolerance or a non-IgE-mediated milk allergy.
What are the side effects of epinephrine injections?
Epinephrine injection side effects may include:
- Dry mouth.
- Increased sweating.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Fatigue (weakness or tiredness).
These symptoms are usually modest and pass fast.
How soon after treatment will I feel better?
The effects of an epinephrine injection begin shortly after you inject yourself.
How can I prevent a milk allergy?
The easiest strategy to avoid a milk allergy is to avoid all milk-containing meals and beverages. Examine the ingredient lists on all packaged goods. If you are unclear if a product includes milk, avoid it until the maker confirms.
Early exposure to common food allergens in your infant may help avoid certain food allergies. Consult your child’s physician about when to begin introducing goods containing cow’s milk.
You cannot avoid getting a milk intolerance or a non-IgE-mediated milk allergy.
Outlook / Prognosis
What can I expect if I have a milk allergy?
It may be difficult to live with a milk allergy or to have a kid who has a milk allergy. Symptoms may vary from mild to severe, and your body’s reaction cannot be predicted. If you’ve already had a moderate allergic response to milk, subsequent exposures to milk may be severe. If you’ve had a severe allergic response to milk before, you’re more likely to have another in the future.
You or your kid, however, may have a full life if you exercise prudence. Healthcare practitioners may refer you to services, support groups, and dietitians to assist you with your daily meals.
As their digestive systems mature, babies and young children may outgrow a milk allergy. Visit an allergist on a yearly basis to evaluate whether your child’s milk allergy has resolved. Milk allergy treatments are available for a limited number of patients.
How do I take care of myself if I have a milk allergy?
If you have a milk allergy, the following recommendations may help you take care of yourself:
- Always be mindful of what you eat and drink.
- Check the nutrition labels before eating a product, even if it didn’t trigger an allergic response the previous time you ate it. Manufacturers may alter recipes and include milk.
- If your kid is allergic to milk, tell them not to take food from friends or classmates.
- Inform your waiter of your milk allergy and ask comprehensive questions regarding ingredients and food preparation while eating out.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet or carry a medical alert card with information about your milk allergy.
- Include your food allergy in the medical emergency setting or app on your phone.
- Consult a healthcare expert about how to prepare for an allergic response. They could give you an epinephrine auto-injector. You should have it with you at all times in case of an allergic response.
When should I see a healthcare provider?
Consult a doctor if you have milk allergy symptoms on a regular basis or if your symptoms worsen after consuming milk.
When should I go to the ER?
If you develop anaphylactic symptoms, go to the emergency room or dial 911 (or your local emergency number).
What questions should I ask a healthcare provider?
- How can you tell that I have a milk allergy?
- When can I introduce milk to my child?
- Will my child outgrow their milk allergy?
- Are there any support groups for persons with milk allergies or their parents?
- Can you recommend a dietitian?
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a milk allergy the same as lactose intolerance?
No, a milk allergy is not synonymous with lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose (dairy intolerance). Lactose is a sugar found in a variety of dairy products. Lactose intolerance causes bloating, cramping, and diarrhea after consuming lactose-containing items. It affects adults more than newborns and young children.
A milk allergy occurs when your immune system responds abnormally to one or more of the proteins found in milk. It often exhibits more severe symptoms than lactose intolerance. Milk allergies are more frequent in infants and toddlers.
How do you test for dairy intolerance?
The hydrogen breath test is the most often used test for dairy intolerance. The hydrogen breath test detects hydrogen gas levels when you exhale. (exhale). Lactose intolerance results in elevated hydrogen levels in the stomach, which the test measures.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A milk allergy is a form of food allergy that arises when your immune system incorrectly responds defensively to proteins found in milk. This response, also known as an allergic reaction, may induce a variety of symptoms such as hives, itching, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and, in extreme instances, anaphylaxis.
It might be irritating not knowing what is causing your symptoms, but a healthcare practitioner can assist you. They may do tests to confirm a milk allergy and provide medicines if necessary. They may also connect you to a dietician who can advise you on what foods and beverages are best for you.
What does a rash from a milk allergy look like?
Raised red lumps on the skin – hives (urticaria) itchy, red, weeping, or crusty rash on the skin – dermatitis or eczema. The swelling of the face.
Where does a milk allergy rash appear?
Cow’s milk allergy may produce a variety of symptoms, including itchy rashes and swelling of the lips, cheeks, and around the eyes. Stomach discomfort, vomiting, colic, diarrhoea, or constipation are examples of digestive issues.
How can I tell if I’m allergic to milk?
Hives are immediate indications and symptoms of milk allergy. Wheezing. Itching or tingling sensation around the lips or mouth.
Can lactose intolerance cause rashes?
Lactose intolerance may also result in stomach pains, gas, diarrhea, and vomiting. Rash, hives, runny nose, coughing, and swelling, on the other hand, are NOT indications of lactose intolerance.