Cow’s Milk Allergy

Almost all infants are fussy at times. But some are excessively fussy because they have an allergy to the protein in cow's milk, which is the basis for most commercial baby formulas. A person of any age can have a milk allergy, but It's more common among infants (about 2% to 3% of babies), though most outgrow it. If you think that your child has a milk allergy, talk with your doctor about testing and alternatives to milk-based formulas and dairy products. 

 
 

About Milk Allergy

 
 
Milk allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly sees the milk protein as something the body should fight off. This starts an allergic reaction, which can cause an infant to be fussy and irritable and cause an upset stomach and other symptoms. Most kids who are allergic to cow's milk also react to goat's milk and sheep's milk and some of them are also allergic to the protein in soy milk. 
 
 
Infants who are breastfed have a lower risk of developing a milk allergy than those who are formula fed. But researchers don't fully understand why some develop a milk allergy and others don't, though it's believed that in many cases, the allergy is genetic. Typically, milk allergy goes away on its own by the time a child is 3 to 5 years old, but some kids never outgrow it.
 
 

Symptoms of a Milk Allergy

 
 
Symptoms of cow's milk protein allergy will generally appear within the first few months of life. An infant can experience symptoms either very quickly after feeding (rapid onset) or not until 7 to 10 days after consuming the cow's milk protein (slower onset). The slower-onset reaction is more common. 
 
 
Symptoms may include loose stools (possibly containing blood), vomiting, gagging, refusing food, irritability or colic, and skin rashes. This type of reaction is more difficult to diagnose because the same symptoms may occur with other health conditions.
 
 
Rapid-onset reactions come on suddenly with symptoms that can include irritability, vomiting, wheezing, swelling, hives, other itchy bumps on the skin, and bloody diarrhea. In rare cases, a potentially severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) can occur and affect the baby's skin, stomach, breathing, and blood pressure. Anaphylaxis is more common with other food allergies than with milk allergy. 
 
 

Diagnosing a Milk Allergy

 
 
If you suspect that your infant is allergic to milk, call your doctor, who'll ask about any family history of allergies or food intolerance and then do a physical exam. There's no single lab test to accurately diagnose milk allergy, so your doctor might order several tests to make the diagnosis and rule out any other health problems. 
 
 
In addition to a stool and a blood test, the doctor may order an allergy skin test, in which a small amount of the milk protein in inserted just under the surface of the child's skin with a needle. If a raised spot called a wheal emerges, the child may have a milk allergy. The doctor may also request an oral challenge test. After you stop feeding your baby milk for about a week, the doctor will have the infant consume milk, then wait for a few hours to watch for any allergic reaction. Sometimes doctors repeat this test to reconfirm the diagnosis. 
 
 

Treating a Milk Allergy

 
 
If your infant has milk allergy and you are breastfeeding, it's important to restrict the amount of dairy products that you ingest because the milk protein that's causing the allergic reaction can cross into your breast milk. You may want to talk to a dietician about finding alternative sources of calcium and other vital nutrients to replace what you were getting from dairy products.
 
 
If you're formula-feeding, your doctor may advise you to switch to a soy protein-based formula. If your infant can't tolerate soy, the doctor may have you switch to a hypoallergenic formula, one in which the proteins are broken down into particles so that the formula is less likely to trigger an allergic reaction. 
 
 

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: 

 
 
Any type of cow's milk or food containing cow's milk (including skim, dried, solid, evaporated, and condensed) like cheese, curds, yogurt, and ice cream, butter and buttermilk. Also, margarines have milk in them, so be sure to carefully check the ingredients, soy products containing cow's milk. Pre-mixed cereals containing powdered cow's milk.
 
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