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Food Allergy Awareness Week: Milk allergy or intolerance

Milk allergies can be separate from egg allergies.
Milk allergies can be separate from egg allergies.

Milk allergy is one of the most common allergies in children. It is also one of the most common to outgrow, with most children outgrowing it by age 3. However, we still see many older children and adults avoiding milk and eliminating it from their diet. Although many people outgrow their milk allergy, there is a whole other group that avoid milk due to an intolerance by their body to digest the lactose found in milk. While both a milk allergy and lactose intolerance diagnosis come with a plan of milk avoidance, the response of the body to an ingestion of milk is quite different.

Milk allergy

Milk allergy is an abnormal response by the body's immune system to milk and products containing milk. Cow's milk is the usual cause of milk allergy, but milk from sheep, goats and buffalo also can cause a reaction. Some children who are allergic to cow's milk are allergic to soy milk, too.(MayoClinic)

Symptoms of a milk allergy can include vomiting, wheezing, and hives right after consuming milk. Symptoms can also occur hours later with digestion problems such as diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Although anaphlaxis from milk allergy is rare, it does occur. In April, 2013, Adrian Marcus Gutierrez, 8 years old, died while driving home from church with his family. The suspected cause is from a Starbucks hot chocolate. They believe Adrian took a sip of his brother's drink with milk, instead of his own with soy milk. Food allergy reactions very greatly from person to person and should always be taken seriously.

Who has a milk allergy?
A study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology with research taken from June 2009 to February 2010 showed that the highest percentage of milk-allergic children were between 6 and 10 years old, and nearly one-third of children with milk allergy had a history of severe reactions. Childhood milk allergy, which accounts for 1/5 of United States food allergies, is less prevalent among Asian and black children than white children.

Latest findings on school chalk
Teachers or parents that use chalk may want to think again. Researchers have found that even low-powder chalk often contains casein, a milk protein. Inhaling chalk dust with this protein can cause breathing problems for milk allergic children. If your chalk is causing a problem for your child, you may request to have your child seated at the back of the room where they are less likely to inhale chalk dust.

Lactose intolerance

It's important to differentiate a true milk allergy from milk protein intolerance or lactose intolerance. Unlike a milk allergy, intolerance doesn't involve the immune system. Milk intolerance causes different symptoms and requires different treatment from a true milk allergy. Common signs and symptoms of milk protein or lactose intolerance include digestive problems, such as bloating, gas or diarrhea, after consuming milk or products containing milk.(MayoClinic)

Lactose intolerance symptoms can look a lot like a milk allergy. The main difference in symptoms is that a milk allergy has the potential to be life threatening. Individuals with lactose intolerance are unable to digest the lactose in milk properly and feel uncomfortable when ingesting milk products. This is caused by a shortage of lactase, an enzyme that helps the body digest lactose. If you or your child have stomach aches after eating milk products, you should consider being tested for lactose intolerance.

Medical tests can diagnose lactose intolerance. The lactose tolerance test requires fasting before the test and then drinking a liquid that contains lactose. Blood samples are taken over a 2-hour period to measure the patient’s blood glucose level. This measures how well the body is able to digest lactose. Another test is the hydrogen breath test. A person drinks a lactose-loaded beverage, and the breath is analyzed at regular intervals. Elevated levels of hydrogen in the breath indicate improper digestion of lactose. (Nutrition411)

Who has lactose intolerance?

According to the National Digestive Diseases Information, 40 million Americans are lactose intolerant. With the highest incidents occurring within the Asian-American population at 90%. Fortunately, for some people with lactose intolerance taking lactaid supplements can help them eat small amounts of dairy.

Advice for the milk allergic from allergy Moms
Friends that deal with milk allergies have recommended the following milk free options and give the following advice.

  • Silk is a great alternative to cow's milk unless you have a nut allergy. With the introduction of Almond Silk, there is cross-contamination risk.
  • Take a calcium supplement when elminating milk or add calcium enriched orange juice to you diet.
  • Red Robin has specific menus for milk allergies.
  • Some Krispie Kreme donuts are milk free
  • Oreos are milk free
  • Dole has a milk free ice cream
  • Lucy's cookies are milk free and good

It's Food Allergy Awareness Week, check back for allergen specific articles each day.

Thursday 15th - Peanut/Tree Nuts

Friday 16th - Fish/Shellfish

Follow me on Twitter @GRallergies

Have some great milk free options or advice to share? Comment below!



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