If you suspect a dairy or cow's milk allergy, there will be a number of tell-tale symptoms that you can look for to help determine what course of action to take next. This article outlines some of the most common milk allergy symptoms and offers you advice on what to do next.
Whilst the symptoms of a cow's milk allergy may differ from person to person or child to child, the most common symptoms to look out for are listed below.
Common cow's milk allergy (CMA) symptoms
- Colic in babies
- Skin reactions such as rashes, itching, swelling or eczema
- Vomiting or upset stomach
- Fever symptoms including sneezing, runny or blocked nose
- Abdominal pain or stomach cramps
- Breathing difficulties
Milk Allergies in Children
So, why do these symptoms happen and how does consuming milk trigger them? A cow's milk allergy is often apparent from a young age and is in fact, quite common, affecting an estimated 2-7% of babies and young children. Possibly due to better detection and increased awareness, the number of children with milk allergies has increased in recent years.
A milk allergy is just like any other and occurs when the body defends against what it perceives to be a harmful substance. The body then produces chemicals known as IgE antibodies to deal with the 'attack' but these then bind to certain cells and produce other chemicals known as histamines which can then trigger the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Tips on living with a milk allergy
If you are allergic to milk, it is, unfortunately, an allergy that can have quite a big impact on day to day life, as so many foods contain milk or milk-derived proteins.
Common sources of cow's milk and derived proteins
- Ghee (clarified butter often used in Indian cooking)
- Milkshakes and other milky drinks
- Yoghurt and fromage frais
- Cream and ice cream
- Condensed milk
If your diet is particularly high in processed foods one way to adapt your diet, without having to miss out on eating most of the foods you'd usually eat, would be to swap processed foods for homemade. Get creative and devise and adapt your own recipes, making sure you leave milk out, or that you substitute with soy milk, rice milk, almond milk or similar.
Soy milk is particularly good as it is still high in protein but has less fat and no cholesterol and is great as a dairy substitute in baking too. Once you know you are dealing with an allergy to milk, it makes sense to adapt your diet, food buying, and cooking habits accordingly. Whilst it can feel like a big change initially; reading the ingredients list of everything you put in your shopping trolley will certainly add time to your regular shop, but you'll soon get used to it and may even find you become more creative in the kitchen as you experiment with lots of new foods.
If you suspect an allergy to milk, you might want to try out a home testing kit for milk, designed to be quick and easily used at home or talk to your GP.