Milk Allergy

Milk Allergy: Symptoms, Causes, Diet, And Treatment

Milk allergy refers to the response of your body’s immune system when you consume milk and/or products containing milk. The abnormal reaction is common among children. In most cases, cow’s milk triggers an allergic reaction. But, an allergic reaction can also occur due to consuming milk from goats, sheep, buffalo, and other mammals. Due to the condition, a person can see an allergic reaction as soon as they consume milk. The signs and symptoms of the condition may vary from mild to severe. While you can control mild reactions, severe issues can result in anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition. So, you need to see an allergist to detect the presence of an allergic reaction and take the necessary steps. Children who suffer from the issue mostly outgrow it. But, some may not outgrow it, which results in avoiding milk products. Read ahead to know more.

Milk allergy

Symptoms Of Milk Allergy

Symptoms Of Milk Allergy

The allergic reaction can trigger mild to severe reactions. It differs from one person to another. Some people experience the signs within a few minutes of consuming dairy products while others observe it after a few hours. So, the different symptoms occurring due to the condition include:

Immediate Signs Of A Milk Allergy

The immediate signs associated with milk allergy include:

  • Wheezing
  • Hives
  • Tingling or itching sensation around the lips or mouth
  • Coughing
  • Swelling of lips, tongue, or throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting

Signs Of Milk Allergy Occurring After Some Time

Some symptoms develop after a few hours. So, the signs occurring after some time include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Loose stools or diarrhea (with blood in stools)
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Colic (in babies)

Severe Symptoms Due To Milk Allergy

In some people, allergic reactions to milk can trigger severe complications with fatal complications. Anaphylaxis is the life-threatening reaction occurring due to the narrowing of airways. So, it blocks normal breathing. Do you know that milk is the third most common food source triggering anaphylaxis (peanuts and tree nuts taking the first and second position)? Due to the condition, the affected person can suffer from the following symptoms

  • Swollen throat constricting the airways making it difficult to breathe
  • Itching
  • Facial flushing
  • Shock along with a sudden drop in blood pressure

To treat the medical emergency, you need to see a doctor immediately or visit the emergency room. The condition requires treatment epinephrine shot to avoid further complications. So, if you see such severe signs, get medical assistance immediately.

Difference Between Milk Allergy And Lactose Allergy

While discussing allergic reactions caused by milk, you need to know that it is different from lactose intolerance. Both are not the same. Lactose intolerance refers to the inability of a person to digest lactose. Lactose is the sugar you will find in dairy products. Due to lactose intolerance, you can suffer from abdominal pain, diarrhea, and gas. The condition can affect anyone who consumes milk or products containing milk. Lactose intolerance does not involve your immune system like an allergic reaction. With an allergic reaction, you suffer from symptoms that not just affects your digestive tract. You suffer from symptoms caused by the release of histamines by your immune system. Your body mistakenly thinks dairy products as a foreign invader. So, you see symptoms like wheezing, vomiting, and others.

Since the allergic reaction to milk differs from lactose intolerance, the treatment methods are different. It is important to see an allergy specialist to detect the exact cause of the problem. With a proper diagnosis, you can determine if you are suffering from an allergic reaction or intolerance.

See A Doctor For Milk Allergy

You need to see a doctor or an allergist when you or your child experiences the symptoms associated with the allergic reaction. The signs occur shortly after you consume a dairy product. So, seeing a doctor immediately while you experience the condition to make the correct diagnosis. It is essential to seek emergency treatment when you see signs of anaphylaxis. Informing the doctor about the severity of the symptoms is essential to make a proper diagnosis. The tests suggested by the doctor help confirm the allergic reaction. You can take the essential steps to prevent potentially worse reactions in the future.

Causes Of Milk Allergy

What causes milk allergy? You suffer from food-related allergies due to the malfunctioning of your immune system. So, you suffer from reactions when the immune system identifies certain proteins in the dairy as harmful. It results in the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. These antibodies neutralize the harmful allergen (in this case the protein). So, when you come in contact with these proteins the next time, the IgE antibodies in your body recognizes them. It sends the signal to your immune system to release histamine as well as other chemicals. This results in a range of allergic signs and symptoms in your body. You experience an allergic reaction due to two main proteins in cow’s milk:

Causes Of Milk Allergy

  • Casein: The solid part, also referred to as curd that curdles

Causes Of Milk Allergy

  • Whey: The liquid part remaining after the solid part curdles

You suffer from an allergic reaction due to one or both milk proteins. These proteins are commonly found in many processed and baked foods. So, it may become difficult to avoid dairy completely. People who react to cow’s milk also react to buffalo’s, sheep’s, and goat’s milk. In rare cases, people allergic to dairy can experience a reaction when they use soy milk.

FPIES (Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome)

Due to the food allergen, you can suffer from a delayed allergic reaction. While any food can trigger such reaction, dairy products can cause the issue more compared to others. Because of the reaction, you can suffer from symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. These occur hours after eating the food instead of within minutes. Unlike some other allergies triggered by food, FPIES resolves over time. For preventing the condition, it is essential to avoid dairy products.

Risk Factors Associated With Milk Allergy

Not all people develop an allergic reaction when they consume dairy. Only some people develop it. It is because of the influence of certain factors. The factors responsible for triggering the problem are:

Presence Of Allergies

When your child suffers from other allergies, then they can also suffer this allergic reaction. In most of the cases, the allergic reaction to milk develops before other allergies.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is common yet chronic skin inflammation. Children who suffer from skin conditions like atopic dermatitis can also develop an allergic reaction to food, including dairy.

Family History

When one of your parents suffers from an allergic reaction to food, then you can also suffer from it. If you have family members suffering from any allergies or allergic diseases, then you have more chances of developing it. So, people with a family history of hives, hay fever, eczema, or asthma need to maintain caution.


Allergic reactions due to consuming dairy products are common among children compared to others. As the children age, they develop a mature digestive system. So, it aids in less reaction to dairy products.

Complications Due To Milk Allergy

Without getting medical assistance, the children allergic to dairy products are at risk of developing other health problems. So, children with a milk allergy can suffer from the following:

Other Food Allergies

Children suffering from an allergic reaction to milk are likely to develop other food allergies. So, they can suffer from immune system reaction when they eat the following food items:

  • Soy
  • Eggs
  • Beef
  • Peanuts
  • Hay Fever

The allergic reaction to dairy can also result in suffering from hay fever. The condition also referred to as allergic rhinitis triggers cold-like symptoms when you come in contact with dust mites, pet dander, grass pollen, and other substances. So, you can suffer from the following:

Diagnosing Milk Allergy

When you suffer from any allergic reaction after eating food, then it becomes difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of the condition. You fail to identify the food substance triggering the problem as a cuisine contains many ingredients. To evaluate whether you or your child suffers from milk allergy, your doctor has to perform a thorough assessment. The following diagnostic techniques help evaluate the cause of an allergic reaction.

Physical Assessment

The doctor asks a detailed question regarding the signs and symptoms you observe. For checking the signs, the doctor performs a thorough physical assessment. Based on the assessment and the severity of the problem, your doctor suggests several tests.

Rule Out Other Problems

Since the allergic reactions trigger symptoms that mimic certain other health conditions, your doctor tries to rule them out. Based on the symptoms, the doctor suggests other diagnostic tests to identify or eliminate other problems.

Keep A Food Diary

For the mild cases of allergic reactions, it is important to keep a food diary. It must contain all the details regarding the food and drinks you consume every day. You must also record the signs you observe after eating food items.

Elimination Diet

For mild reactions, the doctor suggests an elimination diet. It means you need to eliminate dairy products from the diet. After some time, add back the food to your diet. It will help you see if the food item triggers a reaction or not.

Skin Test

Skin Test

For severe cases of allergic reactions, it is important to know the exact cause of the problem. So, the doctor suggests skin tests. During the test, the doctor pricks your skin. Then, the doctor exposes small amounts of proteins found in dairy to the pricked area. If you suffer from milk allergy, then you will develop a hive (small bump) at the test location. So, you can see a bump in the pricked area. These tests are usually specified by allergy specialists as they are well equipped to perform as well as interpret the results of the test. But, the test does not help detect if the reactions you suffer are due to using dairy products or not.

Blood Test

The lab technician takes a sample of your blood to measure immunoglobulin (IgE) developed in the body as a response to consuming milk. Like the skin test, the blood test cannot specifically identify the source of an allergic reaction. It only indicates you have an allergic reaction to certain food.

Oral Challenge

If your examination and test results can’t confirm milk allergy, your doctor might administer an oral challenge, in which you are fed different foods that may or may not contain milk in increasing amounts to see if you react to the ones that contain milk. It’s a good idea to have allergy tests administered by an allergist who’s been trained to manage serious reactions.

Treatment To Manage Milk Allergy

After diagnosing milk allergy, your doctor gives you instructions on how to deal with it. Follow the instructions as suggested by the medical professional. Remember, you cannot cure the problem with medications. In some children, the allergic reaction stops ad they grow older. So, the options to deal with the issue are:

Avoid Milk And Milk Protein

It is the sure-shot method to prevent allergic reactions caused due to consuming a dairy product. While it may seem difficult as dairy is a main ingredient in almost all foods. In some people, diary in heated form like processed foods or baked goods may not trigger a reaction. So, talk to your doctor about the specifics of your allergic reaction and make a diet plan. It must contain information about the foods you can include and avoid.


In some cases, accidental consumption of milk can result in an allergic reaction. When you or your child suffer from mild milk allergy, then medications like antihistamines can offer relief from the symptoms.

Epinephrine Injection

Epinephrine Injection

A serious allergic reaction needs immediate medical attention as it can prove fatal. People, especially children suffering from a serious reaction, also known as anaphylaxis need to see the doctor immediately. They are injected with epinephrine injections for preventing complications. If you or your child face the risk of developing a severe reaction, then carrying injectable epinephrine (adrenaline) can prevent complications. You can carry EpiPen or Adrenaclick all the time to avoid any accidental reactions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the steps to use the device. The instructions will prepare you for any emergency.

Preventing Milk Allergy

While there is no sure shot method to prevent allergic reaction triggered due to consuming certain food, you can avoid such foods causing them. If you or your loved ones are diagnosed with an allergic reaction to dairy products, then you can take the following steps to avoid any complications:

Read Ingredient List

It is essential to read the ingredient list of the food items you buy. Specifically, look for casein, the derivative triggering allergy. You can find the ingredient in unexpected places like nondairy products, sausage, or canned tuna. Take caution while purchasing products with labels “nondairy” or “milk-free” as it may contain allergy-triggering proteins. When you have doubts regarding a product, it is better to contact the manufacturer to clear if it has milk ingredients or not.

Also, question the ingredients used in food items you order in restaurants. Restaurants may use milk-products like butter or cheese on food or dip the food to prepare them. It is always not possible to know about them. So, ask questions before ordering the food as hidden sources of dairy are difficult to identify.

Avoid Milk And Milk Products

Avoid the obvious sources of dairy as it contains the allergy-causing protein. So, refrain from consuming the following:

  • Milk (In any form like whole, low-fat, skim)
  • Buttermilk
  • Yogurt
  • Butter
  • Ice cream
  • Cheese or any products containing cheese
  • Gelato
  • Half-and-half
  • Processed food (like baked good or processed meat)

Prevent Milk Allergy In Infants

While grownups can take necessary steps to avoid the allergic reaction, infants or small children need special caution. So, if parents suspect their child has the condition, they need to see the pediatrician to diagnose the problem. Based on the diagnosis, you need to take the following steps:

Breastmilk For Avoiding Milk Allergy

If your infant has an allergic reaction to milk, then it is better to stick to breastfeeding. Choosing to breastfeed your child as long as possible will provide necessary nutrition without the risk of an allergic reaction. A new mother with babies at high risk of developing allergic reaction need to exclude milk and related products from their diet. It is because the milk protein passes to the babies through breast milk and triggers an allergic reaction. If you suspect milk allergy in your child, talk to the doctor. Your doctor will offer the necessary guidelines to prevent any problem.

Hypoallergenic Formula

If you cannot breastfeed your child, then you need to look into a hypoallergenic formula. It is ideal for children suffering from an allergic reaction to dairy. Special hypoallergenic formulas are produced by hydrolyzing. It means the enzymes are used to break down milk-proteins like whey or casein. It is further processed using heat as well as filtering. Based on the processing levels, you get partially or extensively hydrolyzed products. These products are also referred to as elemental formulas. Some of the hypoallergenic formulas are not milk-based. They contain amino acids. It is the next preferred one to extensively hydrolyzed products as the products are less likely to trigger allergic reactions.

Another option is the soy-based formula that contains soy-protein instead of milk-proteins. The soy-formula is developed to offer good nutrition. But, many children who develop dairy allergy also develop an allergic reaction to soy. So, talk with the pediatrician to find the best choice to get complete nutrition without any complications.

Plan Milk-Free Diet

You need to consult your dietitian or pediatrician to develop a milk-free diet that offers all nutrition without dairy products. The balanced meals offer much-needed nutrients. If you or your child fail to receive necessary nutrition, then the doctor prescribes supplements to replace nutrients and calcium in dairy products like Vitamin D and riboflavin.

Use Emergency Epinephrine

If you are at risk of suffering from a serious allergic reaction, then you need to talk to your doctor about having emergency epinephrine all the time. The adrenaline injection will help save lives when you have a tendency to suffer from a severe reaction. You can wear a medical necklace or bracelet to let others know about the allergic reaction.

Diet For Milk Allergy

When you suffer from milk allergy, then you need to pay attention to your diet. So, you need to check the list for detecting the presence of cow’s milk or the associated milk products. It is also important to check if you can consume goat or sheep’s milk. In most cases, the answer is no. It is because the proteins present in goat and sheep’s milk are similar to that of the ones in cow’s milk. So, they can also trigger the reaction. When you suffer from an allergic reaction, it is important to have a special diet. Here are some tips:

Dairy Products To Avoid

You need to avoid the following from your diet to avoid an allergic reaction.

  • Cream (it includes sour cream)
  • Butter and butterfat
  • All types of cheese and cheese sauces
  • Custard
  • All milk products (including evaporated milk, buttermilk, and powdered milk)
  • Ice cream
  • Yogurt
  • Pudding

Foods Triggering Milk Allergy

Certain food items contain allergy-causing milk protein. So, you need to check the label to eliminate the presence of cow’s milk protein. Check the ingredients in your food when you eat out. It is important to know if the dish you order has milk in them. Here are some the food items you need to avoid:

  • Baked goods (including cookies, bread, cakes, and crackers)
  • Au gratin dishes
  • Cake mix
  • White sauces
  • Cereals
  • Chocolate
  • Chewing gum
  • Cream candy
  • Donuts
  • Coffee creamers
  • Creamed foods
  • Malted milk
  • Scalloped foods
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Margarine
  • Processed and canned meats (it includes deli meats and cold cuts)
  • Some candy with nougat
  • Sherbet
  • Salad dressings
  • Sherbet

Ingredients With Milk

When you buy products from the grocery store, check its label. If the following items are listed on the label of the food products, then it contains milk-proteins in it:

  • Artificial Cheese flavor
  • Curd
  • Artificial butter
  • Casein/caseinates
  • Hydrolysates
  • Ghee
  • Rennet
  • Lactalbumin or lactalbumin phosphate
  • Lactose, lactulose, lactoferrin, lactoglobulin, lactoferrin
  • Whey or whey products

The above-mentioned list does not cover all the products. So, you need to look up any ingredient triggering suspicion.

Living With Milk Allergy

While you may think it is difficult to live with milk allergy, it is not the case. You can follow some suggestions provided to ensure a healthy and happy life without consuming milk or associated products:

Find Other Sources

When your child has an allergic reaction, then you need to find other sources to get the essential vitamins and minerals. Since dairy products are an important source of calcium, Vitamin D, protein, and Vitamin B12, you need to include other foods to overcome the deficiency. You can talk with a registered dietitian to develop a well-balanced eating plan to get the necessary nutrients. Include spinach, broccoli, and soy products in your daily diet.

Try Dairy Substitutes

You can substitute dairy products with alternatives like rice, soy, or almond milk. These are fortified with Vitamin D and Calcium. Also, look for non-dairy cheese, ice cream, chocolate, and yogurt.

Maintain Caution While Using Kosher Products

When you use kosher products, you need to maintain caution. Some of these products contain milk protein. You may think the ones labeled pareve may not contain dairy. While they are considered are milk-free as per kosher guidelines, it may contain dairy.

Choose Safe Formula

If the doctor diagnoses your baby with such an allergic reaction, then you need to talk to your pediatrician about the safe formula. The doctor suggests using a formula based on extensively hydrolyzed, casein.

Avoid Products Outside Kitchen

For avoiding any allergic reaction, you need to use any product outside the kitchen with caution. It includes checking the ingredient list of cosmetics and ointments your use. The products you use on your skin, must never contain dairy in any form. The same rule applies to medicines you consume. Some medications contain whey, the product made from milk. Avoid them as they can trigger an allergic reaction. With a little caution, you can prevent serious complications.


Do you know that around 2% to 3% of children below three years suffer from a milk allergy? But, most of them outgrow it as they grow older. Some experience it for a long time. In such cases, consulting a doctor can offer better results. With better planning, you can manage the condition better and avoid any serious complications. So, see a doctor as soon as you suspect or believe if your loved ones suffer from the condition.

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