Food allergies come in many forms but the one that seems to manifest earliest is a milk allergy. This is because it is usually associated with infants and babies. When many people hear the term milk allergy they associate it with lactose intolerance. The confusion is understandable but the allergen or trigger for each of these problems is very different.
Allergies can start throughout your life. I didn’t start having allergies to pollen until I was in my thirties. Others may have allergies start right out of the gate as infants. Though some pediatricians tell you that allergies to things like milk can be outgrown the jury is still out on how true that is. Some suspect that allergies that are “outgrown” may actually just change in the sense that the symptoms may be less intense or different all together. Though a milk allergy is associated with childhood and infancy plenty of adults suffer as well.
Milk Allergy versus Lactose Intolerance
A true milk allergy is triggered by the protein in cow’s milk or any other type of dairy. A lactose intolerance is a reaction to the milk sugar lactose. Someone who is lactose intolerant has a problem with the level of an enzyme called lactase which is required to “digest” the milk sugar lactose. This deficiency or absence happens usually after 5 years of age so someone who was fine drinking milk may suddenly start having this intolerance.
An allergy involves the response of the body’s immune system. The immune system is involved in causing the symptoms of a milk allergy while the symptoms of a lactose intolerance are usually gastrointestinal in nature.
Milk Allergy and Babies
As a mother of two I know what a terrifying and confusing time it is when your baby is sick. I was advised before giving birth that breastfeeding would help not only avoid an allergy but also with keeping the baby healthier in general. My experience with my firstborn led me to believe that the doctors and nurses were right. My daughter did not develop any milk allergy type symptoms and rarely got sick.
Unlike my daughter though my son who I also breast fed for his first year did develop symptoms like ear infections, asthma and eczema that indicate allergies. He also developed diarrhea at a certain point that led to an investigation into possible celiac disease. So bottom line you just don’t know. Every baby is different and the amount of time they are breast fed can delay the onset of these symptoms like it did for my son.
Since milk allergies usually occur in infancy you may be wondering what are some of the symptoms of milk allergy in newborns. Here are some symptoms that can indicate a milk allergy:
- Chronic Runny Nose
- Ear Infections
- Recurring Colds
The best thing to do when you suspect this type of allergy is to consult with your doctor. Whether you are young, old or have a baby that seems to be reacting badly to milk. Only a doctor will be able to confirm your suspicions.
Whether you have a milk allergy or are lactose intolerant you will have to manage your intake of dairy products for the rest of your life. Some peoples reactions may be stronger than others so their approach might be different. Since there currently is no cure for this allergy you will most likely be advised to eliminate dairy products from your diet. Keep in mind that you will have to learn to identify milk proteins on ingredient lists. Your allergist can provide you with a list. With all this knowledge you will be able to live more comfortably with a milk allergy.