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Does My Child Have a Cows Milk Protein Milk Allergy

allergy is the most common allergy among babies and young children affecting about 2-6 % of children under 1 year. Milk allergy is caused when the immune system causes a reaction to proteins that are found in cow’s milk. These proteins can be found in normal cow’s milk, infant formula and food products containing cow’s milk.

In Breastfed infants, symptoms of milk allergy are usually noticed when the baby is introduced to “top-ups” of cow’s milk formula (mixed feeding) or in weaning foods.

The milk proteins can also be found in small amounts in breast milk, and so milk allergy problems can occasionally be found in babies who are exclusively breastfed, but the risk is usually smaller.

Two common types of food allergy are often described. IgE mediated which is also known as fast onset allergic reaction and Non-IgE mediated which is known as a delayed reaction.

IgE/ Fast or Immediate allergic reactions

This reaction occurs very soon after the milk has been drunk. Usually within 2 hours of consuming cow’s milk or cow’s milk products: The reaction often causes a red and itchy rash called Hives, with or without swelling and breathing difficulties. This is the most well-known type of reaction, and often associated with other foods such as peanuts and can cause anaphylaxis, which is the most serious type of allergic reaction.

This type of allergy can be tested for by skin prick tests on the food, and a blood test that looks for the immune protein (called IgE) made by the body that overreacts to the food.

Non-IgE/ Delayed type allergic reactions

This type of allergic reaction is much more common in young children with a suspected milk allergy. Common problems that may point to a baby having delayed milk allergy, would often show up in different areas of the body, such as difficult eczema, colic or severe wind, gastro-oesophageal reflux, tummy pains, loose or explosive nappies and even constipation. The baby may also find it difficult to gain weight.

If I suspect my child might have a cow's milk protein allergy, what do I do?

If you suspect a cow's milk protein allergy, then it is recommended to book in to see your paediatrician/GP. Your GP will then refer you to a dietitian if this is not the case you can book in to see a dietitian privately. For non-IgE mediated reactions, an elimination period is needed, then a milk challenge to confirm the diagnosis, then depending on the result either re-introduction or + months of removal of all cow's milk protein sources. If your child is at weaning age it is important to seek adequate help from a registered dietitian to ensure no nutrients are missing from your child’s diet when commencing dairy-free weaning.

Will my baby always have a milk allergy?

Around 80% of babies with milk allergy have a very good chance of growing out of their milk allergy. After 6-9 months on a milk-free diet, or after their first birthday it is a good time to re-try milk into the child’s diet.


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