Milk protein allergy is an immune reaction to one of the many proteins present in cow’s milk. In most cases, it occurs due to the alpha S1-casein protein found in the cow’s milk. Sometimes, milk allergy is confused with lactose intolerance. This is because both have similar symptoms.
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However, both these conditions are very different from one another. Lactose intolerance occurs if the human body lacks lactase enzyme, which helps in metabolizing lactose, milk sugar, in the intestines. On the other hand, milk allergy is an immune reaction to a milk protein.
Usually, cow’s milk allergy is found in young children. Besides milk, other foods that create allergic reactions are soy, eggs, peanuts, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and wheat. But in this article, we’ll only discuss the allergy caused by milk.
Milk allergy symptoms
Generally, children with a milk allergy have a slow reaction and the symptoms will take time to develop from several hours to days. Here are some of the common milk allergy symptoms that you must look for if you’re doubtful of having a milk protein allergy.
- loose stool (it may contain blood or mucus)
- abdominal cramps
- skin rash
- intermittent coughing
- runny nose or sinus infection
- slow weight or height gain in children
Some of the symptoms that occurs within a few seconds or hour are:
In severe cases, a child with a milk allergy may have a serious reaction known as anaphylactic shock. Although it is very rare, anaphylactic shock is a serious allergic reaction and need immediate medical attention. It may cause swelling of mouth and throat, as well as, a drop in blood pressure along with troubled breathing is seen. In a worst case, it may lead to cardiac arrest. It is treated with epinephrine (EpiPen) in the form of a shot.
How is it diagnosed?
A doctor needs to perform several tests to ensure whether you’re suffering from cow’s milk allergy or lactose intolerance. First of all, you need to provide a complete medical history to the doctor to help him get the right diagnosis.
In case of cow’s milk allergy, tests like skin prick test or blood test are advised. On the other hand, for lactose intolerance, a doctor requests you for a hydrogen breath test, lactose tolerance test, milk tolerance test or stool sample.
How is the condition managed?
As mentioned before, cow’s milk allergy and lactose intolerance are caused by two different problems. However, there is a slight difference in managing both these conditions. To manage cow’s milk allergy, you need to completely eliminate cow’s milk protein from your diet. This is because even a small amount of milk protein may trigger the allergic reaction. So, it’s better to avoid it completely.
In lactose intolerance, you may eliminate milk protein from the diet. But this is not required for a long term. Most people with lactose intolerance are able to digest some lactose, despite having a low level of the enzyme, lactase. This means some dairy products can be introduced into the diet. Consult your dietitian to know which products can be included in the diet.
Both cases require a change in child’s diet plan with the help of a healthcare professional. You can consult your doctor or dietitian to known which products can trigger the allergic reaction and how to take an alternative food item for similar nutrition.