Milk Allergies

Milk Allergies

Four facts about cow’s milk allergy…

  • Cow’s milk contains at least 20 allergenic proteins.
  • Allergy to cow’s milk is one of the most common food allergies in children – affecting 2% to 7% of babies under 12 months old.
  • Many children outgrow the allergy by the age of 4 years, others have it throughout their lives.
  • A child who is allergic to cow’s milk may also react to goat’s milk and sheep’s milk, or to soy-based products.

Cow’s milk allergy in a baby
An allergy to cow’s milk is sometimes confused with lactose intolerance (See end of this page*). It is also,sometimes, misdiagnosed as colic, or a virus.

Cow’s milk allergy in occurs when a baby’s immune system mistakenly identifies the milk protein as harmful, and fights against it.

Reactions vary – and symptoms can appear straight away, but may not appear until several days after the milk has been consumed.

Symptoms can include:Dairy1

  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Reflux
  • Blood in the stool
  • Wheezing
  • Hives
  • Eczema
  • Swelling of the face
  • And – rarely – anaphylactic shock. This usually appears immediately, and is life threatening, because it causes the throat to swell, blocking the airway.

It is also now thought that cow’s milk allergy may cause constipation.

A true diagnosis can only be made by a doctor or allergy specialist, so it is very important to consult your baby’s doctor if you suspect the allergy.

If your baby is diagnosed with an allergy to cow’s milk, you must exclude all dairy products – including yogurt and cheese. It is particularly important to discuss your baby’s nutrition with a professional to make sure that his changed diet covers all his needs – so he will grow and thrive. Talk to your doctor or dietician about other high-protein foods such as pork, lamb and chickpeas.

Foods to avoid:


  • Cow’s milk (including condensed, evaporated, skimmed and dried)
  • Goat’s milk
  • Milk powder
  • Cheese
  • Crème fraiche
  • Butter
  • Ghee
  • Margarine
  • Buttermilk
  • Whey
  • Casein

Other commercially prepared food items may contain cow’s milk or derivatives. Look carefully at all labels…

  • Canned fish
  • Deli and processed meats
  • Seasonings and flavourings
  • Pre-mixed cereal
  • Soy products

If you are uncertain about any of the ingredients in a product – DON’T GIVE IT TO YOUR CHILD.

*Lactose Intolerance
The main sugar in all milk – including breastmilk – is lactose. To use it, the body needs to break down the lactose, and this is done by an enzyme called lactase. Lactose intolerance occurs when the body does not have this enzyme.

Lactose intolerance is rare in babies. Symptoms would usually be noticed very early on, as the baby would have problems digesting milk from birth, so would not thrive and gain weight.

Symptoms are similar to those of a milk allergy:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Wind (gas)
  • Tummy pain
  • Poor weight gain

This information presented to you acts as a guide which contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.

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