Is milk allergy life threatening?


Kurt Olsen


Milk allergy is an abnormal immune system reaction to milk and milk-containing products. It’s one of the most frequent childhood food allergies. Milk allergy is most often caused by cow’s milk, however milk from sheep, goats, buffalo, and other animals may also induce a response.

A milk allergy generally manifests as shortly after you or your kid drinks milk. Milk allergies may cause moderate to severe symptoms such as asthma, vomiting, rashes, and digestive issues. Milk allergy may also result in anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal event.

The basic therapy for milk allergy is to avoid milk and milk products. Fortunately, most youngsters grow out of their milk allergy. Those who do not outgrow it may need to forgo milk products indefinitely.


Milk allergy symptoms, which vary from person to person, appear minutes to hours after you or your kid consumes milk or milk products.

The following are possible immediate indications and symptoms of milk allergy:

  • Hives
  • Wheezing
  • Itching or tingling sensations around the lips or mouth
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
  • Coughing or shortness of breath
  • Vomiting

Signs and symptoms that may take longer to manifest include:

  • Loose stools or diarrhea, which may contain blood
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Colic, in babies

Milk allergy or milk intolerance?

A real milk allergy is distinct from lactose intolerance and milk protein intolerance. Unlike milk allergy, intolerance is not caused by the immune system. Milk intolerance is treated differently than real milk allergy.

Common indications and symptoms of milk protein intolerance or lactose intolerance include digestive issues after ingesting milk or milk-containing products, such as bloating, gas, or diarrhea.


Milk allergy may result in anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal response that narrows the airways and prevents breathing. After peanuts and tree nuts, milk is the third most frequent food to induce anaphylaxis.

If you or your kid develops an allergic response to milk, inform your doctor right away, no matter how minor the reaction is. Tests may help confirm a milk allergy, allowing you to prevent future, possibly severe reactions.

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that necessitates the administration of an epinephrine (adrenaline) injection (EpiPen, Adrenaclick, and others) as well as a trip to the emergency department. The following signs and symptoms may appear immediately after consuming milk:

  • Airway constriction, including an enlarged throat that makes breathing difficult
  • Facial flushing
  • Itching
  • Shock, with a marked drop in blood pressure

When to see a doctor

Consult your doctor or an allergist if you or your kid develops milk allergy symptoms soon after ingesting milk. If at all feasible, visit your provider during the allergic response to assist in the diagnosis. If you or your kid develops signs or symptoms of anaphylaxis, get immediate medical attention.


True food allergies are all the result of an immune system dysfunction. If you have a milk allergy, your immune system recognizes certain milk proteins as hazardous and produces immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to neutralize the protein. (allergen). When you are exposed to these proteins again, IgE antibodies detect them and trigger your immune system to produce histamine and other chemicals, resulting in a variety of allergy signs and symptoms.

Cow’s milk contains two primary proteins that might induce an allergic reaction:

  • Casein, found in the solid component (curd) of curdled milk
  • Whey, discovered in the liquid portion of milk that remains after the milk curdles

You or your kid may be allergic to simply one or both milk proteins. These proteins might be difficult to avoid since they are also found in certain processed meals. Most persons who are allergic to cow’s milk will also be allergic to sheep, goat, and buffalo milk.

Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES)

A food allergen may potentially produce what is known as a delayed food allergy. Milk is one of the most frequent trigger foods, however any item may be. The response, which is frequently vomiting and diarrhea, happens hours rather than minutes after consuming the trigger.

FPIES, unlike certain food allergies, frequently resolves on its own. Preventing an FPIES response, like preventing a milk allergy, entails avoiding milk and milk products.

Risk factors

Certain factors may raise the likelihood of acquiring a milk allergy:

  • Other allergies. Many milk-allergic children also have other allergies. Milk allergies might appear before other allergies.
  • Atopic dermatitis. Children with atopic dermatitis, a common, chronic skin condition, are considerably more prone to acquire a food allergy.
  • Family history. If one or both parents have a food allergy or another sort of allergy or allergic condition, such as hay fever, asthma, hives, or eczema, a child is more likely to develop one.
  • Age. Children are more likely to be allergic to milk. Their digestive systems develop as they age, and their bodies are less prone to respond to milk.


Children who are allergic to milk are more prone to have the following health issues:

  • Nutritional deficiencies. Children with milk allergies may have slower development as well as vitamin and mineral shortages due to dietary limitations and feeding difficulties.
  • Reduced quality of life. Milk is found in many familiar and occasionally surprising meals, such as salad dressings and hot dogs. If you or your kid is highly allergic to milk, avoiding it may cause tension or worry when it comes to picking meal choices.


There is no guaranteed method to prevent a food allergy, but you can avoid the food that produces the response. If you or your kid has a milk allergy, avoid milk and milk products.

Read food labels thoroughly. Casein, a milk byproduct, may be found in surprising locations, such as canned tuna, sausage, and nondairy items. When ordering at a restaurant, ask about the ingredients.

Sources of milk

Dairy products are obvious sources of allergy-causing milk proteins, including:

  • Whole milk, low-fat milk, skim milk, buttermilk
  • Butter
  • Yogurt
  • Ice cream, gelato
  • Cheese and anything that contains cheese
  • Half-and-half

When milk is utilized as an ingredient in processed meals such as baked products and processed meats, it might be difficult to distinguish. The following are examples of hidden sources of milk:

  • Whey
  • Casein
  • Ingredients beginning with the letter “lact” — such as lactose and lactate —
  • Candies, such as chocolate, nougat and caramel
  • Protein powders
  • Artificial butter flavor
  • Artificial cheese flavor
  • Hydrolysates

Even if a meal is labeled “milk-free” or “nondairy,” it may include allergy-causing milk proteins, so carefully check the label. If in doubt, check with the manufacturer to ensure that a product does not include milk products.

When dining out, inquire about the preparation of meals. Is there melted butter on your steak? Have you dipped your seafood in milk before cooking it?

If you are at risk of a severe allergic response, see your doctor about carrying and utilizing emergency epinephrine. (adrenaline). Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace to inform people that you have a food allergy if you have already had a severe response.

Milk alternatives for infants

Breastfeeding and the use of hypoallergenic formula may avoid allergy responses in children who are sensitive to milk.

  • Breastfeeding is your infant’s finest source of nourishment. Breastfeeding should be continued for as long as feasible, particularly if your baby is at high risk of developing milk allergy.
  • Hypoallergenic formulas are made by breaking down (hydrolyzing) milk proteins such as casein or whey with enzymes. Heat and filtration are two more processing options. Products are characterized as moderately or extensively hydrolyzed based on their amount of processing. They are also known as elemental formulae.Some hypoallergenic formulas do not include milk and instead contain amino acids. Aside from goods that have been thoroughly hydrolyzed, amino-acid-based formulations are the least likely to elicit an allergic response.
  • Soy-based formulas are made from soy protein rather than milk. Soy formulas are fortified to be nutritionally full; nonetheless, some children who have a milk allergy also develop a soy allergy.

Cow’s milk proteins transmitted via your breast milk may induce an allergic response if you are nursing and your kid is sensitive to milk. You may need to eliminate all milk-containing items from your diet. Consult your doctor if you know or think that your kid has a milk allergy and develops allergy symptoms after nursing.

If you or your kid is on a milk-free diet, your doctor or a nutritionist may assist you in planning nutritionally balanced meals. You or your kid may need to take calcium and other elements present in milk, such as vitamin D and riboflavin, as supplements.

Related Questions

  • Does a milk allergy ever go away?

    Milk allergies are frequent in newborns and toddlers. Most children overcome their cow’s milk allergy by the age of three to five years. However, it may not be outgrown in certain persons.

  • What does a severe milk allergy look like?

    Symptoms of cows’ milk allergy
    Skin reactions include itching rashes and swelling of the lips, cheeks, and eyes. Stomach discomfort, vomiting, colic, diarrhoea, or constipation are examples of digestive issues. hay fever-like symptoms, such as a runny or plugged nose. Eczema that does not respond to therapy.

  • What happens if milk allergy goes undiagnosed?

    Misdiagnosis of milk allergy may result in the missed diagnosis of another ailment with identical symptoms, or nursing moms unnecessarily following restricted diets – or even discontinuing breastfeeding entirely. It may also result in families and the NHS paying for unnecessary specialised formula.

  • How do I stop being allergic to milk?

    Avoiding milk and milk proteins is the only method to avoid an allergic response. This may be tough since milk is used in so many meals. Furthermore, some persons with milk allergies may accept milk in certain forms, such as milk cooked in baked goods or yogurt.

Contact Us

For more information or to make comments and suggestions, please contact:
Kurt Olsen
Dairy Development Coordinator, Missouri Department of Agriculture
Phone: (573) 291-5704
E-mail: [email protected]