Allergy to milk

Allergy to milk or lactose intolerance?

L ‘ allergy to milk cow is the most widespread food awareness in the early years of life. From the second childhood onwards, however, the most common allergens are fish , crustaceans , peanuts and nuts .

This allergic form has nothing to do with milk intolerance, which is especially common in adulthood and the elderly. People who suffer from milk allergy develop antibodies against some of its proteins ; for this reason, after the first exposure, the ingestion of very small quantities of this food or its derivatives is sufficient to trigger a potentially serious allergic reaction. L ‘ lactose intolerance , however, is a disorder due to a deficiency of an enzyme, lactase , needed to digest the sugar typical of milk and dairy products; the severity of symptoms is dose-dependent and there is no involvement of the immune system.

Symptoms and Complications

Clinical manifestations of milk allergy appear within minutes to hours after consumption of the food or its derivatives and include digestive problems, vomiting , hives and difficulty in breathing ( dyspnoea ); milk allergy rarely causes a particularly severe and violent reaction called anaphylaxis . The early symptomatology is given precisely by dyspnoea, vomiting and hives, while symptoms such as diarrhea , abdominal colic , blood in the stool , itchy rash (often localized around the mouth), cough and excessive tearing, have a later onset.

Anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic reaction, is a very dangerous condition that requires quick medical intervention. It is characterized by severe symptoms – such as difficulty in breathing, intense itching , redness in the face and drop in blood pressure to the point of collapse – which arise early after contact with the allergen (in this case following the intake of milk or dairy products).

Symptoms of lactose intolerance appear a few hours after consuming milk or other foods rich in lactose , are localized in the digestive system and typically include intestinal swelling , flatulence and diarrhea.

Children allergic to cow’s milk are more likely to develop other allergies, such as eggs , soy and peanuts or hay fever (a form of allergic rhinitis triggered by contact with pollens of grasses , the hairs of pets or other substances).

Risk Factors and Treatment

Risk factors for milk allergy include family history of this or other allergic forms, atopic dermatitis , formula feeding (with rare exceptions, there are no cases of breast milk allergy ) and age (incidence it tends to regress already in the second childhood, as the digestive system matures).

Given the widespread presence of milk and its proteins in commonly used food products , allergic manifestations are quite frequent; milder ones can be attenuated by oral therapy based on antihistamines , while in the presence of anaphylaxis an injection of adrenaline may be necessary . As with all other forms of sensitization, the allergic reaction can only be prevented by avoiding contact with the allergen; consequently it is necessary to exclude from the diet any source of milk and its derivatives.


For further information: drugs for the treatment of milk allergy

Special milks for milk allergy sufferers

For the ‘ feeding of infants were studied specific hypoallergenic formulations. These formulas are produced using fairly complex technologies (enzymatic reactions, filtration techniques, high pressures and heat) with the aim of hydrolyzing (“breaking”) the milk proteins (see special milks ). The protein fragments thus obtained can have a more or less large molecular weight and as such are indicated in the diet of newborns with allergic forms of varying severity. Milk from other animals, such as goat’s, sheep or buffalo, cannot be taken by those suffering from cow’s milk allergy, due to a phenomenon called cross-reactivity (these milks contain proteins with amino acid sequences similar to those of cow’s milk). This characteristic seems to be absent in donkey’s and mare ‘s milk , which however require further studies – both clinical and technological – before being used in the nutrition of subjects allergic to cow’s milk. An alternative to animal milks is represented by those based on more or less hydrolyzed vegetable proteins , such as soy milk. The latter, however, can in turn become an allergen and, not least, can contain more or less important traces of transgenic soy . For this reason, some milk allergic babies are fed hydrolyzed rice protein products. If the child suffers from cow’s milk allergy, sometimes it is necessary to remove the food and its derivatives even from the nurse’s diet .


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