Although for years, getting enough milk has been something that has been recommended as healthy for children, there are actually some children who suffer from milk allergies.
Believe it or not, a milk allergy is one of the most common food allergies that affect kids. It's an autoimmune reaction of the body to milk and milk products. Although most children grow out of milk allergies, they can continue into adulthood. A milk allergy is different from a milk intolerance, and they should be approached differently. An allergy is a reaction that occurs because of the immune system response and can be life-threatening.
Signs your child might have a milk allergy
If you suspect that your child might have a milk allergy or sensitivity, keep your eyes peeled for the following symptoms:
-Facial or mouth swelling
In some cases, a milk allergy can cause anaphylaxis, a condition where the throat closes. This is a medical emergency that requires treatment immediately, most commonly by way of an Epi-Pen injection.
A true milk allergy is caused by the immune system reacting to a certain protein. The proteins in milk that can cause an allergic reaction are casein and whey. When the body notices the presence of these proteins, the immune system takes action to combat them, which causes the allergic reaction.
A body's reaction to milk can happen immediately, or it can be delayed and come later. Symptoms that occur later usually include intestinal effects such as diarrhea, gas, and bloating.
How to prevent an allergic reaction in your child
The best way to avoid an allergic reaction is to avoid the food. If a child is known to be allergic to milk, they should avoid consuming it.
A common problem with milk allergies is that there are often milk ingredients in other foods, and it can be hard to spot whether your child is consuming something that may cause them to have a reaction. Reading food labels and getting to know what to look for is the best way to protect your child. When eating out, notify the staff that your child has an allergy so that they can take care to ensure your child's food won't contain milk ingredients.
To get a diagnosis, you may want to start a food diary to take to your doctor with a list of foods your child has consumed and any symptoms that have come up. They will likely conduct a physical exam and do blood tests or skin testing to find out if there is a true allergy.
Treatment for a milk allergy is simply to avoid milk. Get to know the ingredients to look for and avoid processed foods. If your child has a serious reaction such as anaphylaxis, then it's best to carry an epi-pen in case of emergency. There may be some cases where antihistamines are useful as well. Consult with your doctor to find out the best course of action with your child.
A milk allergy is not the end of the world for a child
Although having a milk allergy might be a pain, it is manageable. The most important thing is to be diligent about the products that your child consumes. Although allergic reactions can vary, they are all uncomfortable and should be avoided if possible.
Becoming knowledgeable about what your child is eating and the foods to avoid is your best bet. Preparing meals at home, and looking for products that are free of milk ingredients will be immensely helpful in preventing your child from having a reaction.
Educating yourself on allergies and having good communication with your doctor is also advised. Additionally, in older children, you can help them take responsibility for their own health by teaching them how to look at food labels and advocate for their own safety when it comes to food.
In infants, a milk allergy is easily taken care of with infant formulas that do not contain the proteins that cause a reaction. If the mother is able to breastfeed, this is also a viable option.
Becoming knowledgeable about your child's allergy and different ways to manage it will be the most helpful thing you can do to help them cope with it.