Milk is one of the most common allergens for anyone. Children below 3 years old are more likely to have a milk allergy than adults are, even though this allergy can happen to anyone at any time. Milk allergy occurs when the immune system in the body reacts spontaneously against milk proteins because it falsely presumes them as being hazardous. This condition results in the production of antibodies to counteract the proteins. When milk is ingested, antibodies identify the proteins, allowing the immune system to release histamine and other chemicals. These chemicals eventually lead to allergic symptoms, which commonly happens within a few minutes to a few hours after ingesting milk.
Two main components in cow’s milk accounting for allergic reactions are casein and whey. Casein refers to the solid part (curd) that develops when milk is left to sour, containing 80% of milk proteins .Whey is the watery part of milk that remains after milk curdles, holding other proteins.
Signs and symptoms of milk allergy might differ from person to person, but there are three common types of reactions including:
Skin reactions usually occur quickly within a few minutes after ingesting milk. They affect the skin in the form of hives, itchy red rashes, eczema, facial flushing, and allergic shiners (black around the eyes).
Stomach and intestines can be affected within a few hours after milk intake. Symptoms might include diarrhea, loose stools, gas, abdominal pain, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting.
These reactions happen within a few minutes to a few hours once you have consumed milk, affecting the throat, nose, and lungs. Symptoms that may occur include coughing, sneezing, stuffy nose, and watery eyes.
Likewise, the allergy can result in anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening reaction affecting and obstructing breathing. This reaction leads to asthma-like signs such as difficulty breathing, gasping, and swelling of the face, mouth, lips, or throat. In addition, blood pressure can drop suddenly, resulting in passing out or losing consciousness, and eventually causing shock.
It is essential to distinguish milk allergy with milk intolerance (lactose intolerance) because sometimes people mistake the two. Milk intolerance refers to a physical reaction to a substance involving the digestive system instead of the immune system. It might have similar signs like abdominal pain, but both conditions are not linked to each other.
Consult with your doctor or an allergy specialist if you have the above symptoms after milk intake. You might undergo a skin test or a blood test to reveal if you have an allergic reaction. However, these tests only work on a fast-onset type (they are not effective for mild allergic reactions).
Avoiding any foods containing milk such as butter, cheese, and cake is the best treatment. Your doctor can recommend taking an EpiPen in the event you need it. An EpiPen is a medical device with an auto-injector system containing adrenaline or epinephrine. When you consume milk products unintentionally, you can treat yourself with this handy auto-injector. However, the EpiPen might pose several side effects you should anticipate. Keep in mind you should go to a nearby health care provider to further help you cope with this condition.
MayoClinic.com: Milk Allergy - https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/milk-allergy/DS01008
Foodreactions.org: Milk Allergy - https://www.foodreactions.org/allergy/milk.html
Kidshealth.org: Milk Allergy - https://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/nutrition/milk_allergy.html#