With milk allergies, you can get all of the “traditional” food allergy symptoms, like hives, stomach distress and even anaphylaxis, but you can also suffer from a number of other symptoms. Along with pinpointing the symptoms and identifying the allergy, it’s important to learn good alternatives to milk as well so as not to suffer any nutritional deficits.
Between 2% and 3% of babies and toddlers are affected by milk allergies, and it’s not enough to simply eliminate the “milk” from the diet. If babies are breastfeeding, the mother must eliminate all milk products from her diet as well as it is absorbed and then passed on in the breast milk. Many children will grow out of this allergy, but in the meantime, parents and caregivers must be aware of it and avoid milk.
Not only milk as a drink must be avoided, but also cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, and any type of milk dairy product as well as any products containing milk, many pastries and breads, crackers, and cookies. Look for whey and lactose ingredients in products; these need to be avoided as well.
Some of the symptoms are respiratory distress, constant congestion, a wet cough and ear infections. Also failure to thrive is a symptom in young children, because the milk is causing their bodies distress. Whereas some of the symptoms are apparent immediately after milk ingestion, like hives or sneezing, some other symptoms will appear slowly over the course of the next few days. These symptoms, like respiratory and digestive problems, are harder to diagnose because they mimic those of other ailments.
As mentioned, those with a milk allergy often grow out of it, though not always, and it can also manifest itself later in life. They often find themselves more prone to other allergies, whether food or environmental, or both. Even asthma is connected to milk allergies.
It’s important to supplement the diet with other foods while avoiding milk. Milk has valuable nutrients the body needs for proper growth, such as calcium and vitamins, as well as protein, that if can lead to health problems if deficient. www.healthsystem.virginia.edu has a great list of what is safe and what should be avoided.
Some good substitutes are soy milk, which comes in flavors like vanilla and chocolate, and rice milk. There are many choices for both of these and even mainstream grocery chains are beginning to stock a good variety. You can also find yogurts and cheeses made without any milk products, using soy instead. Some vegetables like broccoli have a lot of calcium as do the fortified juices now. Many cereals are now enriched with calcium and vitamins, just make sure there are no other milk products in them, and remember use your soy or rice milk instead of cow’s milk.
Some people try sheep’s or goat’s milk, but it doesn’t work for everyone as the make-up of the milks are similar to cow’s and they find they have allergies to these milks, too.
Luckily, a milk allergy may not be a lifelong allergy. It’s important to communicate with your practitioner and discuss your symptoms and diet. Your practitioner can also guide you through re-introduction of milk if it seems you or your child has outgrown the allergy.
- Heather Legg