Dairy allergy and milk allergy are a result of the body’s reactions to the proteins found in dairy products. In a perfect world, the body would recognize them as harmless. Instead, it misconstrues them as “enemy allergens” and marshals its immune strength to fight them off. This results in bothersome allergy symptoms that occur after drinking or eating dairy products.
Milk allergy symptoms:
Immediate reactions to milk or dairy often include:
- Skin rash
- Gastrointestinal problems including vomiting
Delayed reactions often include:
- Stomach cramps
- Coughing and wheezing
- Runny or congested nose
- Colic (infants)
While some adults may have milk allergies, they are most common in young kids as a child allergy and usually do not persist beyond the toddler years.
A more common adult condition is known as lactose intolerance. This is not a food allergy, but rather a food sensitivity that occurs when the body does not produce enough of an enzyme called lactase. Without enough lactase, the body has a hard time digesting the sugars found in milk. The main signs of lactose intolerance are digestion issues (bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, diarrhea, throwing up, etc.)
Whether you call it a milk allergy or a dairy allergy, the source is the same. Both start with milk proteins that can be found in a wide array of products ranging from cheese to ice cream. It is these proteins that the body misconstrues as enemies and that the immune system launches an attack against.
Dealing with milk allergy:
If you or your child suffers from a kids allergy like milk, you are probably becoming quite adept at avoiding milk products. This can be difficult, though, as milk can be found in unexpected places such as in tuna, broth, salad dressings, processed meat, French fries, and cookies. In addition, without dairy products, it can be hard to get the requisite amount of calcium in your diet.
Beyond avoidance, there is another option known as sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). Medical studies1 have shown SLIT to be effective in reducing the effects of various food allergies, With SLIT, patients place a small amount of allergy serum under the tongue where it is absorbed into the blood stream. Over time, the serum may desensitize the body to “problem foods” so you can eat more of the foods you enjoy without fear of reaction.
1 See Research Studies (“Sublingual Immunotherapy for Food Allergies” publications)