What Do You Need to Know About Milk Allergies?

Many of us begin our day by adding some warm milk to our morning cereal. Or adding milk to our cup of coffee that potentially wakes us up. But for many people, that is not an option. Those are struggling with milk allergies experience mild to more severe symptoms after they ingest milk. But milk allergy and lactose intolerance are not the same. For a person with milk allergy, the consummation of milk can put them in a potentially life-threatening condition. 

What is a milk allergy?

A milk allergy refers to the immune reaction that one’s immune system has against one or more proteins found in milk. Curd, which is the substance that forms chunks in the milk, contains roughly 80% of these proteins, otherwise known as caseins. Whey, which is the watery part of the milk, contains around 20% of the milk’s proteins. In most cases of a milk allergy, the immune system overreacts to the presence of the alpha S1-casein milk protein. 

Cow’s milk is considered to be one of the seven major allergens along with eggs, peanuts, soy, fish, shellfish, etc. Research shows that the prevalence of cow’s milk allergy variates between 0.25 and 4.9%, affecting more children than adults. 

The symptoms of a milk allergy

The milk allergy can cause either a slow or an instant reaction. The symptoms of a slow reaction usually develop within several hours or even days after the milk consummation. The list includes:

  • Abdominal cramps;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Presence of blood and/or mucus in the stool;
  • Skin rash;
  • Coughing;
  • Runny nose, etc.

The instant reaction can be potentially life-threatening if the needed persuasions are not taken in time. Symptoms such as difficulty breathing, wheezing, vomiting, swelling, and even a drop in blood pressure are expected to occur. Although uncommon, a milk allergy can also lead to an anaphylactic shock which can end in death.

Living with a milk allergy

The milk allergy, much like any other allergy, cannot be cured, but its symptoms can be prevented. The individual with a milk allergy is advised to carefully avoid milk and any food/products that may contain even the slightest traces of milk. This would require a careful reading of the food labels and avoiding any food/products of whose content you are not fully sure of.

If you tend to experience severe symptoms of a milk allergy, your doctor will probably advise you to carry an epinephrine autoinjector with you, which will allow you to inject epinephrine in case of an emergency. And if you do experience any symptoms, make sure to check in with your doctor as soon as possible.