Everything you need to know about Milk Allergy: Cause, Symptoms & Treatment

Have you heard of milk allergy? It’s one of the most common food allergies in children. A lot of us stay away from milk or milk products without actually knowing if we’re allergic or not.
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Milk Allergy is an abnormal response by the body’s immune system. The immune system reacts to the milk’s proteins and generates a variety of symptoms. Many people get confused between lactose intolerance and milk allergy. However, they are completely different. Lactose intolerance is due to the body’s reaction towards lactose present in milk. It is because your body does not have enough lactase, which is an enzyme, needed to break down lactose. On the other hand, milk allergy is the reaction to proteins found in milk.

Cow’s milk is the most common cause of milk allergy. Milk from goats, buffalos, sheep and other mammals can also cause milk allergy. About 2.5% of children under the age of 3 are allergic to cow’s milk. However, majority of them outgrow this allergy later.  


Signs and symptoms of milk allergy can be mild to severe. The symptoms usually occur when a person consumes milk or hours after drinking milk or eating a food that contains milk. Milk allergy not only affects your digestive tract but the overall health of your child. Here are the symptoms of milk allergy.

  • Vomiting
  • Watery stools
  • Diarrhoea
  • Coughing
  • Hives
  • Wheezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Running nose
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Colic, in babies
  • Swelling of lips

If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, consult an allergist. A proper diagnosis will help you solve the problem easily. 

Milk Allergy


Avoiding milk and milk products is the only way to manage milk allergy. This can be difficult as milk is an essential ingredient in most things we eat. However, some people who are allergic to milk can tolerate milk in other products. Read food labels carefully. Look for casein, a milk derivative which can be found in certain foods.

Avoid any of these names for milk and milk ingredients:

  • Casein, caseinate, rennet casein
  • Lactate/lactose
  • Delactosed or demineralized whey
  • Hydrolyzed casein
  • Lactalbumin
  • Lactoferrin
  • Lactoglobulin
  • Whey/ Whey protein concentrate
  • Curds

When eating outside, ask how the food is prepared. Even when some labels say milk-free, they contain allergy-causing milk proteins.

Milk Allergy

Avoid these dairy foods if you have Milk Allergy:

  • Yogurt
  • Buttermilk
  • Cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Butter
  • Ice cream
  • Custard
  • Cream
  • Pudding

Dairy Products

Other foods with milk in them:

  • Baked goods
  • Chewing gum
  • Chocolate
  • Donuts
  • Salad dressings
  • Coffee creamers
  • Cereals
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Candy
  • Margarine
  • Tofu
  • Caramel colouring/flavouring 
  • Brown sugar

Avoid foods with milk and milk ingredients in them. Most children and adults outgrow this allergy but if you don’t you need to continue avoiding certain foods. Check with your allergist. Read food labels properly and ask questions always. Here are few tips to follow if you have milk allergy.

  • Find other ways to get vitamins and minerals. Foods such as broccoli, soy and spinach may help. 
  • Try dairy substitutes like rice, almond milk and soy that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
  • Ask your allergist about food items, which suit you and how to deal with milk allergy.

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