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One of the most common food allergy in infants and young children is milk allergy. Common symptoms can vary from mild reactions such as hives to severe ones such as anaphylaxis.
It is approximated that around 2.5% of children below the age of three years are allergic to milk since most children who suffer from this condition do so in their first year. The allergy however, dissipates as children grow older depending on the milk antibodies in their blood. It therefore means, that it is possible for your physician to determine whether your child will outgrow the milk allergy by simply measuring these antibodies.
The sensitivity to these allergy varies from one person to the other. There are those who experience a severe reaction upon ingestion of a small amount of milk whereas there are those who experience a mild reaction after consuming a moderate amount. However, some reactions can be life-threatening and this is why this allergy can not be taken so lightly.
Differences between lactose intolerance and milk allergy
Lactose intolerance should not be confused with milk allergy. A food allergy has to do with the immune system, which overreacts upon the introduction of a specific food protein. When the food protein is consumed, it triggers an allergic reaction that ranges from hives, rashes, itching, swelling, wheezing, breathing difficulties and even loss of consciousness.
Food intolerance, on the other hand, does not involve the immune system. People who suffer from lactose intolerance simply lack an enzyme called lactase, that is responsible for breaking down a sugar found in dairy products called lactose. Consequently, a lactose-intolerant patient will be unable to digest any food that contains lactose and may experience symptoms such as diarrhea, gas, bloating, cramps and nausea. While this condition can be very uncomfortable, it is not life threatening.
Formula for infants with milk allergy
Infants who are allergic to milk are supposed to be fed with a formula that contains milk which has been hydrolyzed. This means that the protein contained in the milk has been extensively broken down which makes it different from the protein found in your normal milk and therefore causes no allergic reactions. Some doctors also recommend soy-based formula on condition that the child is not allergic to soy.
A milk-free formula is supposed to be used past the one year mark as it contains essential nutrients that are necessary for children who have a restricted diet due to food allergies. It is always recommended to consult with a doctor or nutritionist so as to ensure that you meet the nutritional requirements of your child.
Management and treatment
The only way to control a milk allergy is to avoid milk products altogether. It is therefore, crucial for parents of children who have milk allergy to read product labels very carefully. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) dictates that all food products sold in the USA with mild products must be labeled with the word “Milk”.
There are two common types of milk proteins; whey and casein. Whey is found in the liquid part of milk and constitutes 20% of all the milk proteins while casein is found in the solid part of milk and contains the other 80% of the milk proteins. Milk proteins can be found in many products, some of which are unexpected. For example, sausage, canned tuna, meat and even some beverages such as energy and body building drinks. Therefore, if symptoms of milk allergy occur, track your diet for the culprit and report to your allergist.