What is Milk Allergy?

Milk allergy is the most common form of milk allergy or adverse reaction to cow, goat and sheep’s milk. Allergy is caused when the immune system (IS) reacts against one or more of the proteins found in milk.

This happens due to the lack of the IS to learn to recognize milk proteins as being harmless. Hence every time milk is ingested in a subject, the IS is falsely alerted that a harmful body has entered the body and tries to eliminate it as if it were a bacteria, or a virus or a harmful chemical. The IS through specialised cells releases granules containing toxins, and it is these toxins that make persons with milk allergy to suffer the symptoms associated with food allergy.

Who does it affect?

Milk allergy is more common in children than in adults. However it still leaves a significant percentage of milk allergy sufferers into adult hood. Moreover, it is possible for adults to develop a milk allergy with no childhood history of allergies.


The principal symptoms are gastrointestinal, dermatological and respiratory. These can translate to: skin rash, hives, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation and distress. The clinical spectrum extends to diverse disorders: anaphylactic reactions, atopic dermatitis, wheeze, infantile colic, gastroesophageal reflux (GER), oesophagitis, allergic colitis and constipation.

Signs of a milk allergy that may occur immediately after consuming milk include:

  • Wheezing
  • Vomiting
  • Hives


Currently the only 100% successful treatment for milk allergies is total avoidance of milk proteins. Infants, who develop milk allergy, usually outgrow the condition. However, since milk protein may be transferred from a breastfeeding mother to an allergic infant, lactating mothers are given an elimination diet.

As for older children and adults, one should watch the recipes of dishes consumed. Proteins in milk and may be the cause of the allergy, but this may be minimised if not eliminated by digestive enzymes. These digestive enzymes break down proteins in the intestines before reaching our blood supply, hence disallowing the protein to act as an allergen.

Medications, such as antihistamines, may reduce signs and symptoms of a milk allergy. These drugs can be taken after exposure to milk to control an allergic reaction and help relieve discomfort.

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