What is Casein Allergy?
Casein is a milk protein. Casein allergy can strike any time. It is usually very prevalent among infants and occurs with the introduction of milk formula. The severity of the symptoms differ from one individual to the other. Though the symptoms are mild to moderate most of the time, some rare cases of life-threatening casein allergy have been reported.
Milk allergy is the most common food allergy to affect children in the United States. It affects about 2.5% children below the age of 3. However, 80% of the children outgrow it by the age of 16. Let us know about this casein allergy in detai
Why do some children have Casein Allergy?
In some individuals the body reacts to this otherwise harmless and beneficial protein in milk. The body identifies casein as a threat and produces antibodies known as IgE. These antibodies react and bind with the protein and throw the body in an auto immune mode. The body responds by releasing large quantities of histamine from the mast cells of the gut, pharynx and skin. Histamine is the main culprit behind the adverse reactions experienced in the body. It dilates blood vessels causing inflammation. It irritates nerve endings causing skin rashes and other bodily reactions.
Symptoms of Casein Allergy
The onset of casein allergy includes the following symptoms:
- Chronic runny nose
- Frequent ear infections
- Excessive colic
- Severe diarrhea
- Breathing difficulties
The allergy in many children usually recedes completely by the age of seven. Adults usually develop casein allergy symptoms in their thirties and forties.
Skin, abdomen and respiratory tracts are the common areas that are affected by casein allergy. Skin is the primary organ which is affected by casein allergy first and foremost.
Dermal Symptoms of Casein Allergy
The following are the prominent skin related symptoms:
- Itchy rash (the most common dermal symptom, develops into hives or eczema)
- Painful swelling
- Facial features (include fleshing of the face, throat and chest )
In infants reflux and milk allergy are intricately related
Abdominal Symptoms of Casein Allergy
The digestive tract and abdomen are the other parts which are prominently affected by casein allergy. The following are the prominent symptoms:
- Severe abdominal cramping
- Recurrent diarrhea
The prominent respiratory symptoms usually are asthmatic in nature. They include difficulty in breathing, wheezing etc.
Diagnosis of Casein Allergy – Allergy Tests
Normally the patients are monitored for two weeks to rule out related disorders. It is a good idea to consult an allergist and get tested to isolate the substance causing the allergy. An individual could be allergic to one or more allergens. Blood Test (RAST) is done to check for antibodies in blood. Skin Prick and patch test are other methods of introducing the allergen to the skin. Any adverse skin reaction will confirm the diagnosis.
Casein allergies are usually misdiagnosed as lactose intolerance. Thus in most of the cases they are misdiagnosed. Physicians must be careful about this.
Treatment for Casein Allergy
- The first step would be eliminating milk and milk products from diet. Go for other lactose free options like soy milk, rice milk etc.
- Digestive problems generally disappear as soon as the casein is avoided in diet. However, the doctor may prescribe some digestive supplements and electrolytes for managing the symptoms.
- Antihistamines can work effectively to reduce the adverse allergic reactions in the body.
- Decongestants or a combination of antihistamines and decongestants are also prescribed.
- Corticosteroids are prescribed to combat inflammation.
- In extreme anaphylactic reaction, an emergency shot of epinephrine needs to be administered. It also comes in a self injectable syringe.
- Milk is a rich source of calcium. Calcium plays a vital role in the physical development of children. So when milk and milk products are avoided it is important to supplement calcium through other food sources. Sometimes doctors also prescribe calcium supplements to take care of this particular problem.
Prevention of Casein Allergy
- The best way to prevent allergy to casein protein is to stop consuming the foods containing casein.
- Avoid milk, ice cream, yogurt, margarine, butter and cheese.
- Check for the ingredients present in processed foods and avoid those which contain lactose, casein, sodium caseinate, milk solids and milk proteins.
- Take milk protein free alternatives such as rice milk, almond and soy.
- If you are allergic to casein alone and not to whey protein, you may take foods that contain whey.
This is all about casein allergy in detail.