What is a Milk Protein Allergy?

Ken Black

A milk protein allergy is a reaction caused by the proteins most commonly found in cow's milk. Like any allergen, the body reacts to it because the immune system is triggered due to the potential threat of the milk protein. As with most allergies, this one is only triggered in certain people. Some may refer to a milk protein allergy as milk intolerance, but this often refers to something else entirely.

Some people with dairy allergies are sensitive to casein, a protein found in milk products.
Some people with dairy allergies are sensitive to casein, a protein found in milk products.

It should be noted that a milk protein allergy usually only develops in infants and toddlers below the age of two. Those who do have the allergy usually outgrow it about the time they turn two. Further, while this dairy allergy is fairly common, it only applies to cow's milk and perhaps milk taken from other species. Mother's milk, or human milk, often does not spark an allergic reaction. This is one reason why natural breastfeeding is often recommended as the first option by most pediatricians.

Allergies may manifest as skin rashes.
Allergies may manifest as skin rashes.

The symptoms of a milk protein allergy vary widely from person to person as the immune system reacts in different ways to this outside stimuli. In some cases, severe abdominal pains may be felt. A rash may develop and the body may become extremely itchy. There could also be diarrhea and vomiting. If it is truly a milk protein allergy, this will likely happen after nearly every feeding, which should help determine a diagnosis relatively quickly.

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For those who suspect they may have a child who is suffering from a milk protein allergy, the best course of action is to call a doctor. While many baby formulas on the market have a base of cow's milk, there are some that are designed specifically to be fed to babies with this type of allergy. A doctor can let you know for sure what needs to be done. However, until a diagnosis can be determined, the doctor will likely have parents take the child off cow's milk.

A milk protein allergy can be very serious if the parents do not realize what is going on. Vomiting and diarrhea can cause a child to become dehydrated very quickly. Therefore, it is crucial that parents try to determine the cause of the problem very quickly. Dehydration can lead to more serious health problems, even in a short period of time.

There may be some confusion between a milk protein allergy and being lactose intolerant. The two are not the same. Lactose intolerance often develops later in life and is not an allergic reaction to cow's milk or any other type of milk. Rather, lactose intolerance is simply a term used when the body is unable to digest milk.


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