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Milk Allergy – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

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You may be surprised to find that between 2% and 3% of children under 3 have milk allergy. While doctors initially thought that the vast majority of children overcome this allergy by the age of 3, new evidence challenges this belief. One study found that less than 20% of children outgrew the allergy by the age of 4. Further, about 80% of children become allergic to milk by the age of 16. Fortunately, allergists are trained to evaluate milk and dairy allergies in children and adults of all ages.

What is Milk Allergy?

Milk allergy is an inappropriate human immune system reaction to milk and milk products. It is one of the most frequent food allergies, commonly faced during childhood. It is most often caused by cow’s milk, though it may also be caused by milk from sheep, goats, and other animals.

An allergic response generally occurs after milk consumption. Signs and symptoms of milk allergy vary from mild to severe and may include wheezing, hives, and gastrointestinal issues. An extreme, life-threatening reaction to milk can also lead to anaphylaxis. Luckily, most kids overcome milk allergies. Those who do not grow out of it may need to avoid milk products for the rest of their life.

What are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of milk allergy vary between individuals and occur between a few minutes and a few hours after consumption of milk or milk products.

Immediate symptoms and indicators of milk allergy could include the following:

  • Itching around the lips or in the mouth;
  • Lip, tongue, or neck swelling;
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting
  • Hives

What are the Causes of Milk Allergy?

Cow’s milk contains numerous allergens, which are most often divided into casein and whey. The whey components include alpha- and beta-lactoglobulin and bovine immunoglobulin, while alpha- and beta-casein form the casein components. Children are more likely to overcome lactoglobulin allergies, whereas casein allergies tend to persist through adolescence and adulthood.

The body generates allergy antibodies against the numerous milk allergens in children and people prone to allergic conditions. Antibodies stimulate the allergic cells in the body, known as mast and basophils. These antibodies get attached to the milk protein when milk or milk products are consumed and cause the allergic cells to produce histamine and other allergens, thus causing the allergy.

When Must You See a Doctor?

Consult with your doctor or an allergist if you detect signs of milk allergy immediately after consuming milk. If possible, approach your doctor for diagnosis during the allergic reaction. Seek immediate care if you or your child develops symptoms of anaphylaxis.

How Can You Prevent Milk Allergy?

There is no specific method for preventing food allergies, though reactions can be avoided through abstaining from triggering food. However, this might be challenging, as milk is a common component in a wide variety of meals. Additionally, some individuals allergic to milk may tolerate it in certain forms, such as milk used in baked products or some foods such as yogurt. Consult your physician for information on which foods to avoid.

Thoroughly reading food labels is critical. Casein is a milk product that may be found in some surprising locations, including canned tuna, sausage, and non dairy products. When ordering at restaurants, inquire about the ingredients.

How Can Milk Allergy be Treated?

Medicines like antihistamines may help alleviate a minor allergic reaction in case of accidental consumption of milk.

If you or your kid experiences a life-threatening allergic reaction, you may require an emergency injection of epinephrine and a referral to the emergency department. You should always keep injectable epinephrine if you or your kid is at risk of a severe reaction.


Milk allergy is one of the most common forms of food allergy, especially among children. Avoidance of milk and milk products is the preferred solution to prevent it. If you suspect that you or your child shows signs of milk allergy, request an appointment at Apollo Hospitals. Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it possible to overcome milk allergy?

Milk allergy typically gets resolved by the time a child reaches 3–5 years of age, but some children never outgrow it. It is distinct from lactose intolerance, a condition in which babies are unable to digest sugar lactose. 

When does an allergic reaction to milk begin?

Symptoms start to show 2 hours after consumption of milk and can last up to 72 hours. If milk is part of the regular diet, the immune system will produce these symptoms for days, if not weeks. The rate at which symptoms develop will help in determining the severity of the allergic reaction.

How can I differentiate between gastric reflux and milk allergy?

Babies frequently spit out food particles, but a doctor should check for vomiting beyond the typical mealtime regurgitation. Reflux symptoms, commonly accompanied by distressing signs (such as back arching and restlessness), may indicate allergy to cow’s milk.

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At Apollo, we believe that easily accessible, reliable health information can make managing health conditions an empowering experience. AskApollo Online Health Library team consists of medical experts who create curated peer-reviewed medical content that is regularly updated and is easy-to-understand.
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