The Difference Between Milk Allergy and Lactose Intolerance
Detecting Milk Allergy in Infants
Food allergies are common among babies and small children, and an allergy to milk is the leading type of food allergy. About 2.5 percent of children under the age of three develop some kind of milk allergy, usually during their first year of life.
Because infants cannot tell you when they feel discomfort, it is important for a parent or caregiver to pay close attention to signs and symptoms that may arise minutes to a few hours after the baby is fed.
Symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea, irritability, runny nose, or hives may be mild indications of an allergy to cow’s milk or any milk-based product. Should these symptoms persist each time milk products are ingested, a visit to the pediatrician will help determine if a milk allergy is present.
Managing Milk Allergy in Infants and Toddlers
If the pediatrician diagnoses a milk allergy, you will need to eliminate milk products from your baby’s diet at least through early childhood. As your child’s digestive tract matures, chances are good the milk allergy will resolve. A consultation may be arranged by your baby’s doctor with a pediatric allergist for further testing and ongoing medical management.
The doctor might recommend a casein-based, hydrolyzed formula containing broken-down protein that is easier for the baby to digest than milk protein. A calcium supplement might be added to ensure the baby’s bones grow strong and healthy. Your pediatrician may also recommend continuing formula beyond the usual one year to ensure adequate protein intake.
Recognizing and Managing Lactose Intolerance
Babies are rarely diagnosed with lactose intolerance, but a viral infection or reaction to immunization may cause them to have diarrhea when ingesting milk-based formula. Since these secondary intolerances are usually short-lived, it may not be necessary to make any dietary changes.
For prolonged lactose intolerance symptoms, the doctor might recommend a formula with a lower lactose content such as Similar Total Comfort or Similar Pro Sensitive.
If a severe anaphylactic reaction due to a milk allergy occurs, immediate medical attention will be necessary and an epinephrine injection may be administered.
You’ll want to talk to your pediatrician if you suspect a milk allergy or lactose intolerance, as they can offer alternative options and advice.