Most babies transition from breast milk or formula to cow’s milk at around 12 months. While many kids drink milk without problems, others have reactions to dairy products that might indicate an allergy. Understanding dairy allergies helps you evaluate your child’s symptoms and know how to proceed if you suspect an allergic reaction.
The reaction to dairy products typically occurs soon after consumption, anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Not all children experience the same symptoms. Possible symptoms include wheezing, vomiting, hives, coughing, runny nose, rash around the mouth, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Anaphylaxis, which is a narrowing of the airways, rarely occurs in kids allergic to milk, but it is a possibility.
Allergy Versus Intolerance
While an allergy is an immune system reaction, intolerance does not involve the immune system. Sometimes called “lactose intolerance,” this condition focuses on symptoms in the digestive system. This might include bloating and gas. Diarrhea is sometimes a symptom of lactose intolerance.
Contact your child’s doctor if she shows signs of an allergic reaction after dairy products are consumed. A list of symptoms your child experiences helps the doctor assess the condition. Seeing the doctor while the milk allergy symptoms are still present gives him a better opportunity for assessment. The doctor might recommend an elimination diet, during which milk and other dairy products are removed from the diet. The dairy food is then added back to the diet to see if the symptoms return. Skin or blood tests are sometimes used to diagnose a milk allergy.
When a dairy allergy is diagnosed, all products containing the offending milk protein should be eliminated from your child’s diet. This requires reading labels of all processed foods, which might contain milk products. A food journal of all things your child eats and drinks helps you identify specific items that cause the dairy allergic reaction. If an allergic reaction does occur, antihistamines might reduce the symptoms.
Many children outgrow milk allergies around 3 years old, according to MayoClinic.com. Until your child outgrows a milk allergy, alternatives such as soy or rice milk are an option. Your child might also show signs of allergy to soy products, so introduce them slowly and watch your child’s reaction afterward.