Does Your Child Cry Over Milk Protein Allergy?
If your baby’s fussy, one of the possible reasons could be that she’s allergic to cow’s milk protein. A milk protein allergy can cause digestive discomfort and frequent spitting up.
An allergy to the protein in cow’s milk affects 2 to 3 percent of children under age 3. If your child is allergic to cow’s milk, her body’s immune system has an abnormal reaction to the milk protein.
This is different than lactose intolerance, a condition you may be more aware of.
Your doctor can help determine if your child has a cow’s milk allergy, if he’s lactose intolerant, or if something else is causing symptoms.
The good news: About 80 percent of children outgrow the milk protein allergy by the time they are 16.
Cow’s Milk Allergy vs. Lactose Intolerance
An allergy to cow’s milk and lactose intolerance affect different body systems and cause different symptoms.
Milk allergy. If your child has a milk allergy, his immune system attacks the milk protein, releasing histamines and other chemicals that cause allergic reactions in the skin, such as hives, and/or the gastrointestinal system. Breastfed babies with a milk allergy react to dairy products eaten by the mother. Formula-fed babies react to the cow’s milk protein in the formula.
Symptoms of a milk allergy include:
Frequent spitting up
Crying and irritability after feeding
Blood in stool
Not gaining weight
Scaly skin rash
Coughing or wheezing
Watering eyes and stuffy nose
Anaphylaxis (extreme allergic reaction that affects breathing)
There are two types of cow’s milk allergies – one with an immediate reaction and the other, delayed:
IgE mediated milk allergy causes a reaction within two hours of exposure to cow’s milk protein. IgE, or immunoglobulin E, is a human antibody that causes allergy symptoms like hives, rashes and wheezing.
Non-IgE mediated milk allergy carries a delayed response, with symptoms appearing 48 hours to a week after exposure to cow’s milk protein.
Milk (lactose) intolerance. If your child is lactose intolerant, she cannot digest the sugar in milk called lactose. Babies are rarely born with lactose intolerance. The condition more commonly develops in older children and adults. People who are lactose intolerant do not have enough lactase. Lactase is an enzyme produced in the small intestine and is needed to digest lactose.
Failure to thrive and gain weight
If your child shows signs of milk allergy or milk intolerance, talk with your doctor right away.