Diagnosis and Treatment of Milk Allergies

Milk is a nutrient fluid that is produced by the mammary glands of female mammals. It provides the primary source of nutrition for newborns before they are able to digest more diverse foods. Sometimes persons especially young children develop an allergy to milk. A milk allergy is the immune system’s response to one or more of the proteins fund in cow’s milk. Milk allergy is one of the most frequent food allergens. There are many protein allergens that cause allergic reactions. Casein and Whey are the two main components. Casein is the curd that forms when milk begins to sour, and whey is the watery part that is left after curd is removed. Cows milk allergy or CMA affects about two to seven percent of infants.

Symptoms that indicate a possible milk allergy include excessive colic, excoriated buttocks, recurrent diarrhea, rash, hives and eczema, vomiting and abdominal pain, chronic runny nose, nasal stuffiness, recurrent bronchitis, ear infections, recurrent “colds”, sinusitis, fluid behind the ears, wet and wheezy chest, coughing, irritability, failure to thrive, anxiety, acne, ADD/ADHD, arthritis, canker sores, constipation, headaches, heartburn, indigestion, iron deficient anemia, irritability, irritable bowel syndrome, joint pain, lactose intolerance and osteoporosis.

There are three types of clinical reactions to milk allergies. In type one, the symptoms start within minutes of an intake of small volumes of cows milk. This mainly causes skin problems such as eczema or hives. Respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms may also occur. In type two, the symptoms start several hours after an intake of a modest volume of cow’s milk. There are mostly symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea present. In type three, they symptoms develop after more than twenty hours or even days after the intake of large volumes of cow’s milk. Symptoms include diarrhea with or without respiratory and skin reactions.

The label ingredients that may contain milk protein include milk (buttermilk), milk solid, whey, whey powder, curds, lactose, casein, caseinate (potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron caseinates), margarine, cream, cheese, butter, yogurt, lactalbuinin and lactoglobulin.

Diagnosis ranges in degrees of difficulty. It is easier to diagnose infants if the symptoms started soon after the child began on milk formula that is made from modified cows milk. It is also easier to diagnose if the person has the same reaction repeatedly after eating milk-containing food. Diagnosis becomes much harder in older children and adults because the milk is consumed with other foods.

Diagnosis consists of clinical evaluation including medical history, family history and food history. Also laboratory tests including CAP�® RAST blood tests and skin-prick testing. The elimination-challenge may also be used in order to make diagnosis.

Medication is ineffective in treating this condition. Avoidance of milk and milk-containing foods is the only treatment. This can be extremely difficult to maintain. A dietitian must supervise treatment because milk may be present where least expected. Examples of this include vienna sausages, other sausages, fish fingers, pie crusts, crackers such as provita and breakfast cereals.

The majority of young children will outgrow a milk allergy after avoiding milk for 12-18 months. Individuals who develop the allergy later in life will probably retain it. Talk to your doctor if a milk or other food allergy is expected.

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