Milk protein allergy or cow’s milk allergy mainly affects infants and children. Milk protein allergy often heals spontaneously but requires special diets. It is also to be differentiated from lactose intolerance.
What is a milk protein allergy?
Milk protein allergy is also known as cow ‘s milk or milk allergy. Above all, milk protein allergy occurs in babies and children, but in many cases it disappears again when they start school. Milk protein allergy is the most common type of milk allergy in babies and children. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Milk Protein Allergy.
In adults, milk protein allergy is a comparatively rare form of milk allergy. The milk protein allergy is against various proteins contained in cow’s milk. These proteins include, for example, casein or so-called immunoglobulins. A milk protein allergy is often directed against milk from animals such as goats or sheep.
Symptoms that can be triggered by a milk protein allergy include skin rashes or disorders of the gastrointestinal tract (which can manifest themselves, for example, as nausea or flatulence ). In rare cases, respiratory or circulatory problems occur as a result of a milk protein allergy.
Various causes that can lead to a milk protein allergy have not yet been fully clarified in science. However, it is a well-established finding that babies can develop a milk protein allergy as a result of an early confrontation with milk proteins.
The background is that babies’ immune systems are not yet fully developed to be able to protect the body from potentially allergenic substances such as milk proteins. The result is a milk protein allergy. As a rule, babies are more at risk of developing a milk protein allergy the younger they are.
A hereditary factor is assumed to be another causal factor for the development of a milk protein allergy; Children of people who have a milk protein allergy are then probably at a higher risk of suffering from a milk protein allergy themselves.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Since the symptoms of a milk protein allergy are non-specific, it can often only be diagnosed with certainty at a very late stage. They can vary in severity and appear either immediately after consuming milk or a few hours later. Sometimes just a few drops are enough to trigger an allergic reaction.
The allergy to milk protein differs only slightly from an intolerance. Therefore, these two diseases are often confused. However, the intolerance is much less pronounced. A milk protein allergy often manifests itself through digestion. Symptoms such as flatulence, constipation or stomach pain can occur.
The skin also shows allergic reactions. Sick people often suffer from itching, a severe rash, eczema or swelling of the face. You may also vomit or have bloody stools after consuming large amounts of milk. The disease also affects the psyche: those affected describe symptoms of fatigue, mood swings and even depression.
In rare cases, anaphylactic shock, i.e. a circulatory collapse, can occur. A food diary can be used to determine whether the symptoms indicate a milk protein allergy. If the symptoms then always occur after consuming milk or milk products, it can be assumed with some certainty that it is an allergy. It should be noted that reactions to processed milk are often less severe.
Diagnosis & History
Especially in small children, a milk protein allergy often takes a favorable course if milk proteins are not included in their diet. A favorable course is understood to mean that the milk protein allergy regresses by itself.
Statistically, such a favorable course of the milk protein allergy can be assumed for about 80 percent of the affected children. In rare cases, the milk protein allergy persists into adulthood. Children who suffer from a milk protein allergy have an increased risk of developing other allergies.
To diagnose a milk protein allergy, blood tests and so-called skin prick tests or subcutaneous tests can be suitable (depending on the proteins to which the allergy is directed). In prick and subcutaneous tests, the skin of a potentially affected person is brought into contact with possible allergens. Corresponding skin reactions can finally speak for a milk protein allergy.
Cow’s milk or milk protein allergy usually progresses without complications if the allergen is avoided, provided it is diagnosed correctly. Even newborn babies can have an allergic reaction to milk protein. Complications such as asthma or hives can only occur if the milk protein allergy remains undetected and untreated for a long time.
Since the symptoms of milk protein allergy are relatively unspecific, the constant intake of cow’s milk products can have long-term effects on the intestinal system. The overreaction of the immune system triggered by milk protein may have been genetically influenced. However, the researchers are also focusing on other causes.
Casein allergy sufferers should avoid all dairy products to prevent later complications. Whey protein allergy sufferers often tolerate mare, sheep or goat milk, as well as soy and rice milk. Many sufferers have a milk protein allergy, which includes allergic reactions to casein and whey protein.
The worst conceivable complication of a milk protein allergy is anaphylactic shock after consuming cow’s milk. Sometimes even tiny amounts of a dairy product are enough to trigger an allergic reaction. Further complications with a more favorable course, but the impossibility of renouncing cow’s milk, can arise from the administered antihistamines or a drug containing cortisone.
These preparations show side effects when taken for many years, especially the cortisone. Therefore, to avoid complications and consequential damage, consistent avoidance of allergens is the top priority.
When should you go to the doctor?
As a rule, a milk protein allergy should be examined and treated by a doctor, as it usually does not go away on its own. A visit to a doctor is always recommended and can significantly alleviate the symptoms. In acute emergencies, the emergency doctor can be called or the hospital can be visited. If the milk protein allergy has not yet been identified, a doctor can be consulted if the person concerned suffers from pain in the abdomen or stomach.
Especially after consuming dairy products, this pain can indicate a milk protein allergy and should be examined. Furthermore, depression or mood swings indicate a milk protein allergy. In severe cases, this allergy can even lead to shock, which should be treated by an emergency doctor. The first diagnosis can be made by the general practitioner. Further treatment is often carried out with the help of medication and an appropriate diet, so that the symptoms can be limited.
Treatment & Therapy
Therapy cannot cure the milk protein allergy, but only alleviate or eliminate the associated symptoms. Appropriate therapeutic measures in the case of a milk protein allergy are primarily aimed at avoiding the intake of certain proteins by the person concerned.
For this purpose, it makes sense to have a diet plan drawn up in consultation with the doctor treating you that takes into account the individual structure of a milk protein allergy and excludes allergy-causing proteins. However, since proteins and also the calcium contained in milk are important for the body, a diet plan for a milk protein allergy should include alternative foods that can cover the needs.
It is often also necessary to supplement a diet plan for milk protein allergy separately with nutrients containing vitamins. In children and infants in particular, appropriate nutrition can be achieved in the case of milk protein allergy, for example by administering special substitute food or by administering appropriate food supplements.
Outlook & Forecast
A milk protein allergy cannot be treated and accordingly there is no prospect of a cure. Adults who suffer from it have to come to terms with it. However, there is no serious impairment in some cases of milk protein allergy. From a medical point of view, there are no restrictions at all if the allergen is consistently avoided.
In the worst case, the allergy can result in anaphylactic shock. The prognosis here depends on how quickly emergency care is provided. The patient then has to be stabilized in the hospital, the quality of which has a great influence on the prospect of a full recovery.
In children, it is also the case that 90 percent of small children who are allergic to milk protein have developed a tolerance by school age. With them, the allergy disappears on its own, which can be explained by a fully developed digestive system. In addition, milk protein allergies are of different nature: It is also possible to be allergic to species-specific milk proteins from goats, mares or sheep. Accordingly, there are also milk protein allergy sufferers who never experience anything about their allergy.
Moreover, in most cases where the allergen is accidentally ingested, the consequences are comparatively harmless. The intestinal problems usually go away after a few hours and permanent damage is not to be expected.
Experts consider feeding an infant breast milk to be a good way of preventing a milk protein allergy. Breastfeeding strengthens an infant’s immune system. If it is not possible to feed an infant exclusively through breastfeeding, it is advisable to avoid giving cow’s milk or products containing cow’s milk in order to prevent a milk protein allergy. The latter applies in particular to infants, who have an increased risk of developing a milk protein allergy.
Since a milk protein allergy is treated relatively well, so that there are no particular restrictions or other symptoms in the life of the person affected, there is no need for classic follow-up care. As with any allergy, if left untreated, it can lead to various complications and symptoms, so the affected person should contact a doctor as soon as the first symptoms and signs of this disease appear.
Possible interactions should be discussed with a doctor. In most cases, the life expectancy of the patient is not negatively affected by an allergy. However, if shock or a severe seizure should occur, you can go straight to the hospital or call an ambulance. Those affected may have to change their habits or diet in order to avoid the substances that trigger the allergy. This is the only way to avoid further complications.
You can do that yourself
The majority of patients suffering from milk protein allergy are children. Troubled parents should exercise patience here. Tolerance to milk protein develops in around 90 percent of those affected, often before the age of six.
Patients who are not allergic to casein, but only to whey proteins, usually tolerate ultra-high temperature milk products, since whey proteins are destroyed by high temperatures. Very often this group can also consume horse, sheep or goat milk products without any problems. Those affected should therefore definitely have it clarified to which proteins in cow’s milk they are actually allergic. An allergy test for soy, lupins, rice and almonds is also recommended.
For those who tolerate these foods well, there is now a wide range of plant-based substitutes available. The increasing popularity of vegan foods has meant that “plant milk” is now even being offered in discount stores. Since plant-based milk alternatives differ much more in terms of taste and consistency than cow’s milk, different types should be tried out until you find a product that tastes good. In addition to milk alternatives, there are also plant-based cream, yoghurt and cheese. If you are inexperienced here, it is best to ask a vegetarian or vegan from your circle of acquaintances about the shops with the best range of substitute products in the respective city.