Milk Allergies and Lactose Intolerance

by Sam Malone

A food allergy is a reaction of the body’s immune system to certain proteins found in a particular food product. For example, if you suffer from a milk allergy and you consume milk or a milk product, the body will act as if a harmful substance has entered the system. To combat this harmful substance, chemicals known as histamines are released and this results in a number of allergic reactions. Histamines affect the normal functioning of the digestive, respiratory and cardiovascular system.

Symptoms of a milk allergy may include:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Tightness in the throat
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas and bloating
  • Swollen or itchy eyes
  • Hives or skin rash
  • Swelling
  • Low blood pressure
  • Colic in babies
These symptoms usually develop within a few minutes or hours after consuming milk or milk products. In rare cases, milk allergies may also cause a serious reaction known as anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include trouble breathing, dizziness, fainting spells, and a feeling of sudden lightheadedness. If you experience any of these symptoms after consuming any milk product, contact 911 immediately as anaphylaxis can be fatal if not treated in time.

Milk allergies are often confused with milk or lactose intolerance. This is mainly because some of the symptoms of both conditions are similar. However, milk allergies and lactose intolerance are not related. While a milk allergy is a problem with the immune system, lactose intolerance indicates the absence of specific enzymes in the digestive system that are necessary to break down the sugar in milk and milk products. This sugar then remains undigested and causes symptoms such as diarrhea, gas, stomach pain and cramps.

Milk allergies are common in young children and in rare cases in infants. Infants may react to the milk proteins their mothers have consumed (in the case of breastfed infants) or against cow milk proteins found in most commercial formulas. Symptoms of milk allergies in infants include colic pain, excessive crying, irritability, diarrhea, hives, frequent spitting up, wheezing, and watery eyes. Treating a milk allergy in an infant usually involves switching to a different formula and having the mother avoid milk and milk products if she is breastfeeding. While the symptoms of lactose intolerance in infants are similar, it is very rare for infants to suffer from this condition. In most cases, lactose intolerance affects older children and adults. If you suspect that you or your child may suffer from a milk allergy or lactose intolerance, it is important to get tested at the earliest. Consulting with a dietician or an allergist will equip you with the information you need to make the necessary dietary changes and cope with the challenges of the condition.

Treatment of a milk allergy involves a complete avoidance of milk, milk products or foods that may contain milk products. If you are allergic to milk, you need to start reading food labels before eating or drinking anything. Monitoring your diet or your child’s diet in such a way can be a nightmare and it’s probably a good idea to consult with a dietician to devise a specific meal plan. This will ensure that there is no compromise on your nutrition while avoiding foods that are now off limits. In addition to staying away from certain foods, your doctor may also prescribe an epinephrine shot that you carry around with you in case of any emergency. If you accidentally do consume milk or milk products and you begin to experience distressing symptoms such as wheezing or swelling of the mouth, instant administration of the shot can reduce the severity of the reaction significantly.

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
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