Milk Allergy

What is a Milk Allergy?

Individuals who have a milk allergy will have an allergic reaction whenever they eat or drink anything that contains cow’s milk. A reaction occurs when a person’s immune system does not work normally and it determines that certain proteins that are present in cow’s milk are harmful to the body.

These proteins are the casein, which is in the curds of milk, and whey, which exists in the liquefied portion of milk after curdling. Most milk reactions are not severe and individuals can keep them under control by being conscientious of what they eat and drink.

What are the Symptoms of Milk Allergy?

Some of the symptoms that result from a milk allergy, such as vomiting, wheezing and hives, can occur immediately or within a few hours of consuming a milk product. Other symptoms may not appear until a number of hours or a few days later.

These include diarrhea, loose bowel movements that are often bloody, stomach cramping, rashes on the skin, sporadic coughing and an infection of the sinuses. A rare but dangerous symptom, called anaphylactic shock, can cause the mouth and throat to swell, and eventually bring on cardiac arrest. If this occurs, it is essential to get medical help as quickly as possible.

Milk Allergy Causes

Milk allergy is usually the result of the body responding negatively to any number of compounds found in milk. Milk contains fats, bacteria, and proteins of all varieties, but the most typical reason someone develops a milk allergy is due to an extremely early negative response. Almost all babies that will acquire a milk allergy do so within the first year of their life. Afterwards, just about anything can trigger that negative response such as butter or pudding.

There seems to be an association of certain antibodies with the development of a milk allergy. Particularly, persons with milk allergies generally have higher rates of autoimmune diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis is especially associated with the development of food allergies. This suggests that genes are involved in the development of milk allergy and their influence is important in the prevention of the disease.

How is Milk Allergy Treated?

After a milk allergy diagnosis, the best treatment is to avoid consuming any foods or liquids that contain milk.

When treating some milk allergy symptoms, such as rashes and itching, a physician may prescribe a topical steroid cream or an antihistamine. In the event of a serious reaction that causes anaphylactic shock, a medical professional will administer an epinephrine injection to counteract the allergic reaction. Additional medications, after the initial epinephrine, may include cortisone and asthma drugs to help breathing issues. Many individuals who are allergic to milk carry an epinephrine auto-injector with them at all times. If an allergic reaction occurs, the individual can administer the medication themselves.

Milk Allergy Prevention

The best way to prevent milk allergies in children is to expose them to milk products at a young age. This will help their body understand that milk is not in fact a foreign substance to attack. When the body understands milk isn’t going to kill it, the likelihood of releasing histamines goes down dramatically. Although most people who suffer from milk allergies develop them early, there are some who have their first symptoms as adults. In these cases there is a need to slowly introduce milk into their diet in order to help them contend with the substance without harming their immune system.

Milk allergies are common in persons with autoimmune disorders and often result in children who are born with various autoimmunity infliction. This provides strong evidence that one of the best ways to prevent milk allergies is to give adequate treatment to autoimmune diseases before they become something worse. If other diseases are treated, they can’t serve as precursors of milk allergy.

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Last Reviewed:
October 07, 2016
Last Updated:
March 08, 2018