If you have a dairy allergy, your body reacts to the proteins found in milk. Dairy contains two types of proteins, casein and whey protein. You may be allergic to both types of milk protein or just one.
Dairy allergy is not very common but about 5% of infants develop cow's milk allergy. About 80% of them grow out of this during childhood or by the time they are in their teens.
Although most people with a dairy allergy are allergic to cow’s milk, some people may also have a reaction against milk from other animals such as goats, sheep and buffalo.
In serious cases, an allergic reaction to dairy can cause anaphylaxis and requires immediate medical attention.
However, most reactions are similar to asthma symptoms such as breathing, stomach, and skin reactions.
- shortness of breath
- lip, tongue, or throat swelling
- itching or tingling around the lips or mouth
- runny nose
- watery eyes
- upset stomach
- stomach cramps
- loose bowel movement or diarrhoea
- colic in babies
- bloody bowel movement, usually only in babies
How to cope
Clearly, if you or your child has a dairy allergy you must avoid all milk and dairy products, but it's important to read food labels carefully. Milk proteins are added to a surprising number of packaged and processed foods, including:
- drink mixes
- energy and protein drinks
- tinned tuna
- sandwich meats
- chewing gum
Dairy alternatives are now readily available and include:
- rice milk - click here for recipe to make your own
- soy milk
- almond milk
- oat milk
- coconut milk
Dairy allergy or lactose intolerance?
Although some symptoms are similar - stomach cramps, abdominal pain, bloating, gassiness and diarrhoea - a milk or dairy allergy isn’t the same as lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is a food sensitivity or intolerance and is not linked to your immune system.
People who are lactose intolerant are deficient in lactase, the enzyme responsible for the digestion of lactose, or milk sugar. They can take a supplement such as Lactosolv to replace the "missing" lactase.
Find out more about Lactose Intolerance here.