One of the most common food allergies in children and adults is cow’s milk allergy, however few people are aware of its causes or symptoms. While both disorders are brought on by consuming dairy products, milk allergy and lactose intolerance are distinct conditions that have different origins and symptoms. They also need various treatments.
When a person develops a milk allergy, some proteins in cow’s milk are viewed as invaders by their immune system. It starts an allergic reaction that could be fatal in order to offset this perceived threat. Contrarily, lactose intolerance is caused by issues with the breakdown and digestion of lactose, the primary sugar present in dairy products.
It’s crucial for parents and carers to understand how to spot the symptoms of milk allergy early on because it typically appears in infancy. On help you better understand the causes, symptoms, and available treatments for this widespread ailment, we’ve put up a guide to milk allergy.
A Milk Allergy: What Is It?
Milk allergy, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence(opens in new tab), is an allergic reaction mediated by the immune system to one or more casein or whey proteins found in cow’s milk. Depending on the underlying immune system and the onset of symptoms, there are three different forms of milk allergies: mixed IgE and non-IgE mediated, and (Ig)E mediated.
When a person begins to make serum-specific IgE antibodies right away after being exposed to trigger proteins, this is known as an immunoglobulin (Ig)E-mediated allergy. This kind of milk allergy results in immediate and repeated symptoms. After consuming dairy products, adverse effects frequently happen up to two hours later, but usually happen within 20 to 30 minutes.
The development of certain antibodies is not required for a non-IgE-mediated food allergy, therefore reactions to this kind of milk allergy are often delayed. They typically appear two to 72 hours after consuming cow’s milk. Mixed IgE and non-IgE allergy reactions are typically delayed and involve both IgE and non-IgE responses.
When your body is unable to properly digest lactose, you develop lactose intolerance. In order for lactose to be absorbed by the body, it must first be converted to glucose and galactose. Lactase is the digestive enzyme in charge of this. The insufficient production of this protein is one of the primary causes of lactose intolerance. Undigested cow’s milk sugar consequently travels to the colon where it is ingested by intestinal flora. This process increases the amount of fluid and gas in the digestive tract, leading to symptoms like lethargy, flatulence, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, and bloating.
Between 2 and 3 % of children under the age of three are thought to have cow’s milk allergies. Risk factors include sex (boys are twice as likely to have a milk allergy than girls), atopic diseases (including asthma and atopic eczema), a family history of food allergy, and/or atopy, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Some people might also respond adversely to goat, ewe, horse, camel, and buffalo milk proteins.
The causes and symptoms of milk allergy:
The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence(opens in new tab) reports that although the exact cause of milk allergy is unknown, a number of genetic and environmental factors are considered to be involved. Cow’s milk allergy that is immunoglobulin (Ig)E-mediated manifests as the development of certain IgE antibodies in response to cow’s milk proteins. These antibodies attach to the cell surfaces in the body, releasing cell mediators (such histamine) that immediately start the clinical symptoms. Contrarily, a non-IgE-mediated cow’s milk allergy is believed to be caused by faulty T-cells, a kind of white blood cells vital to a healthy immune system.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology lists hives (an itchy rash), upset stomach, vomiting, bloody stools, and in the most serious cases, anaphylaxis as common milk allergy symptoms. Anaphylaxis symptoms include swelling of the airways, difficulty breathing, and a sudden drop in blood pressure that results in lightheadedness and fainting.
How Might a Milk Allergy Be Treated?
It’s important to seek a proper diagnosis from a doctor if you have any reason to believe your child may have a milk allergy. To gain a thorough understanding of your child’s medical history, your doctor will ask questions. Additionally, they might conduct blood or skin prick tests to check for immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies.
Additionally, your physician might request your consent before performing an oral meal challenge test. Your child will be given tiny doses of a drug containing milk proteins while being closely monitored by a doctor to see if any reaction occurs. With the help of all the gathered measurements, your doctor will be able to confirm the diagnosis.
The allergy to cow’s milk has no proven medicinal treatments. The only approach to treat this illness successfully is to stay away from dairy products and foods that contain cow’s milk proteins.
Food producers in the US are legally required to list the presence of cow’s milk and cow’s milk ingredients on their ingredient labels under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004.
Your doctor or nutritionist will advise you on the best baby formulas if your child is too young to chew solid foods. Patients with milk allergies are advised to carry an EpiPen, an auto-injector carrying epinephrine, to prevent anaphylaxis (adrenaline). Only the immediate use of an EpiPen can stop the potentially fatal symptoms of anaphylactic shock.
Using baked cow’s milk is another dietary modification that can benefit some people with milk allergies. In order to alter the structure of the allergy proteins, milk is referred to as being “baked.” According to research findings from 2017, most young infants can consume baked milk products in their diets. According to certain studies(opens in new tab), consuming baked milk may hasten the process of individuals outgrowing their milk allergy. However, a review article in the Clinical and Experimental Allergy journal found that there isn’t much proof to back up this assertion.
Can a Milk Allergy Be Overcome?
Up to 75% of affected children will eventually outgrow a milk allergy by the time they turn five, claims a review article in the Nutrients journal. Those with high blood levels of antibodies to cow’s milk have a higher chance of their milk allergy symptoms persisting. If and when it is appropriate to reintroduce dairy products into your child’s diet, your doctor can help you decide.
As kids get over their sensitivity to milk, they start to tolerate fermented dairy products and mildly boiled milk. The safe intake of cow’s milk often rises over time. However, there might be significant individual variation in the rate of recovery and the doses that are tolerated. It’s usually advisable to reintroduce dairy products after consulting with a doctor or nutritionist to reduce the possibility of bad reactions.
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