Food allergies are on the rise, affecting as many as 6 percent of children in the U.S. under 3 years old, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). Of these, allergies to milk and soy are the most common.
“Milk allergies can occur at any age, in fact sometimes they occur in infancy,” said Dr. Nancy Wasserbauer, an allergy and immunology specialist at Akron Children’s Hospital. “Or the symptoms are there in early infancy but it’s not recognized.”
Although sometimes confused with being lactose intolerant, people with milk allergies are typically not able to tolerate any amount of dairy products and their reactions to eating or drinking these products can be far more severe.
“Milk allergies and food allergies in general will be noted by the children either vomiting, having a lot of diarrhea,” said Dr. Wasserbauer. “Children may have hives, they might have lip swelling, and they might have difficulty breathing.”
Diagnosis can be based on the occurrence of these symptoms, such as a child repeatedly breaking out in hives soon after he drinks a bottle of milk. In other situations, an allergy specialist may need to conduct skin or blood tests.
Although there is no treatment for allergies, Dr. Wasserbauer discussed the importance of avoiding cow’s milk and other products that may contain casein and whey, the milk proteins that set off the allergic reaction. Nursing moms should also avoid these products if their child has been diagnosed with a milk allergy.
In the following video, Dr. Wasserbauer also talks about the chances a child will outgrow a milk allergy as they reach adulthood.