Milk allergy should not be confused with lactose intolerance. A food allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to a specific food protein. When the food protein is ingested, it can trigger an allergic reaction that may include a range of symptoms from mild symptoms (rashes, hives, itching, swelling, etc.) to severe symptoms (trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness, etc.). A food allergy can be potentially fatal.
Unlike food allergies, food intolerances do not involve the immune system. People who are lactose intolerant are missing the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products. As a result, lactose-intolerant patients are unable to digest these foods, and may experience symptoms such as nausea, cramps, gas, bloating and diarrhea. While lactose intolerance can cause great discomfort, it is not life-threatening.
Allergy to cow’s milk is the most common food allergy in infants and young children. Symptoms of a milk allergy reaction can range from mild, such as hives, to severe, such as anaphylaxis. Therefore it is advised that people with milk allergy have quick access to an epinephrine auto-injector (such as an EpiPen®, Jext or Anapen®) at all times. To prevent a reaction, strict avoidance of cow’s milk and cow’s milk products is essential. Always read ingredient labels to identify cow’s milk ingredients.
Approximately 2.5 percent of children younger than three years of age are allergic to milk. Nearly all infants who develop an allergy to milk do so in their first year of life. Most children eventually outgrow a milk allergy. The allergy is most likely to persist in children who have high levels of cow’s milk antibodies in their blood. Blood tests that measure these antibodies can help your allergist determine whether or not a child is likely to outgrow a milk allergy.
Sensitivity to cow’s milk varies from person to person. Some people have a severe reaction after ingesting a tiny amount of milk. Others have only a mild reaction after ingesting a moderate amount of milk. Reactions to milk can be severe and life-threatening (read more about anaphylaxis).
Information courtesy of foodallergy.org, To read more visit FARE’s website.
Please read Elsa’s story (swedish) who lives with a cow’s milk allergy, her family deals with misperceptions AND the extreme lack of knowledge (even amongst medical professionals)of lactose intolerance and milk protein allergy. Elsa has suffered from at least 30 anaphylactic reactions in her young life, due to exposure to cows milk. We must help raise awareness and educate on misperceptions!
Help raise awareness to your childs allergy with an allergy bracelet.