Can you be allergic to milk?

Milk allergies are quite common, especially in children. Four-fifths of them outgrow their allergy by age 16 – that’s some good news at least. Common milk allergy symptoms including hives, nausea, an upset stomach and vomiting. Young children may experience bloody stools.

A rare, but very dangerous reaction is anaphylaxis, which impairs breathing and can cause shock.

If you are allergic to milk, do avoid it at any cost. Also, avoid other dairy products and products that have milk protein. Be careful what you order in restaurants and read labels carefully.

People who are allergic to cow’s milk are often allergic to other types of animal milk too, like goat milk and sheep milk. To rule out other causes, you should contact an allergist. He will ask you a number of questions, including what you ate, what symptoms you had, how long they continued and what you did to relieve them.

Your doctor will perform some allergy tests to check if you are allergic to milk. These are usually skin prick or blood tests. Both are done to detect immunoglobulin E antibodies, which are a marker of exposure to a substance, to which you are sensitive. Allergic symptoms are triggered by chemicals, which these antibodies release.

Always read food product labels carefully – we can’t stress this enough! Most countries’ laws require food manufacturers to list the presence of milk or milk products clearly on the label.

Casein and whey are the main milk components. Casein comprises around four-fifths of milk protein, the solid part, and whey comprises the liquid part. A lot of foods contain milk proteins, and not only dairy products – some meats, sausages, canned fish, energy drinks and gum also do.

Some people who are allergic to milk can tolerate foods containing it following thermal processing. In every event, you would be wise to talk to an allergist if this is the case for you. Others have to avoid milk and all other dairy products completely.