Milk Allergy in Infants: Causes, Symptoms, Tests, Treatment
Every parent has to deal with the fussy behavior of their infants. Babies fuss for many reasons like either they are hurt may be physically or emotionally or they are facing some health problems. However, one of another reason for an infant's extremely fussy behavior could be milk allergy. Some infants are allergic to this protein found in cow's milk, often used as basic ingredient in the majority of commercial baby food. Milk allergy is an acute reaction by the infant's immune system to dairy products especially cow's milk. This milk is considered as a primary cause; however milk from different sources such as goats, sheep, buffalo, etc. may cause reactions.
A reaction or allergic reaction usually happens immediately or in some cases will take up to an hour once the milk has been consumed. Symptoms of allergic reaction might vary from severe to very normal and can cause issues like asthma, severe vomiting, hives and problems related to digestion. Rarely, this allergy can also lead to anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergy or a severe reaction which might cause death.
Avoiding these allergic products is the most common and natural treatment for curing milk allergy in Infants. It is very fortunate that most children conquer this milk allergy. Though it is very rare, but those who do not survive from this allergy, will have to avoid dairy products.
Causes of Milk Allergy in Infants
Although it is very hard to predict what is about to happen in future, it is quite sensible to take precaution and to identify the causes of milk allergy in infants. It has been seen that infants whose families hold an allergic history have a higher probability of developing allergies among infants as well. Yet some studies have conjointly shown that environment plays a huge role in developing hypersensitivity reaction in infants. All food allergies result when immune system does not react appropriately. The Immune system is capable enough to identify milk products which are harmful. So once it detects some harmful protein, it permits the production of Immunoglobulin to counterbalance the Protein (Allergen).
Generally there are two varieties of protein found in cow's milk that can cause an allergic reaction. One of them is Casein that is found in solid part of milk (curd) and Whey in liquid part of milk that remains when milk curdles. Your Infants might be allergic to both protein and they are difficult to avoid due to their presence in majority of baby food available in the markets. It has been observed that people who react and shows allergies to cow's milk also have high possibility to react to buffalo, goat and sheep's milk as well.
Signs and Symptoms of Milk Allergy in Infants
Being a mother, it is not possible to watch your child suffer from any health problems. To identify the precise issue it is necessary to learn about the symptoms of milk allergies in Infants. You cannot be 100 percent sure regarding your baby health issue, however symptoms such as crying or colic, skin rash, diarrhea, vomiting or restless sleep, loose stools, which can contain blood are major symptoms seen particularly after consumption of milk related product which contain cow's milk. It is seen that if the baby is allergic, you can simply observe reaction once baby has consumed the food containing milk products. There is a possibility that a rash can appear with watery eyes and diarrhea and rarely can lead up to one of most serious reaction known as Anaphylaxis.
Shortly after the consumption of milk, signs and symptoms of milk allergy in infants will be:
Signs and symptoms of milk allergy in infants that will take more time to evolve are:
- Stomach cramps
- Loose stools, which may contain blood
- Runny nose
- Presence of skin rash around the mouth
- Watery eyes
- Colic in infants.
Is it Milk Allergy or Milk Intolerance?
It is terribly depressing to handle a healthy baby filled with tears most of the time. This behavior can be because of these two symptoms milk allergy and milk intolerance. However before putting any step forward you must understand that the milk allergy and milk Intolerance are not associated with one other. Generally infants cry excessively even after they are not in need of anything and this type of condition is described as colic. This colic behavior of your infants might be because of cow's milk reaction. It occurs when the baby's immune system reacts to the protein found in milk which they consume. Whereas milk Intolerance is once your baby face difficulties in digesting natural sugar known as lactose or milk sugar found in mother's milk. Symptoms of milk intolerance are also similar to Colic.
Symptoms of Anaphylaxis in Infants with Milk Allergy
Mostly all children and infants are allergic to certain things may be food, dust, etc. Whenever they fall in contact with them they develop symptoms such as shortness of breath and hives and it is known as an allergic reaction. These mild and severe symptoms can lead to serious allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. The symptoms of anaphylaxis may occur when your infant becomes prone to allergy and this situation can get worse. Anaphylaxis must be treated immediately because it can cause death as well. Major symptoms are skin rashes and itching, swelling of the lips, tongue and throat, problem in breathing, dizziness or fainting, stomach ache with vomiting or diarrhea. So if your infant or child is prone to any king of allergy make sure to provide a better treatment to avoid extreme conditions like anaphylaxis.
What is the Best Time to Consult a Doctor?
It is always better to take proper precaution and all you need to do is keep an eye on your infant behavior. In case you find something abnormal, then it is the right time to visit or consult your doctor. It is advisable to visit your doctor if your baby is prone to any type of allergic condition.
Risk Factors for Milk Allergy in Infants
There are various risk factors which may lead to developing of milk allergy among Infants. These factors are:
- Age: Studies have shown that 2 to 7.5 percent of infants under the age group of 1 are allergic to cow's milk. But as they grow, their immune system develops and their allergy towards cow's milk also vanishes.
- Family History: Babies are more prone to food allergy if one of their parents holds an allergic history or any type of allergy. It can be asthma, fever, eczema or hives.
- Other Possible Allergies: Lots of children are allergic to food and other things. Milk allergy is the first kind of allergy seen in infants. Food allergy can also lead to atopic dermatitis which is a chronic infection of the skin which occurs due to food allergy.
Tests to Diagnose Milk Allergy in Infants
When you see allergic symptoms in your child or baby, to evaluate your infant's milk allergy you should visit your doctor to go through tests and diagnosis. You can call your doctor, he may ask you some question regarding your family's allergic history, food habits and then if required he might suggest you to go through a physical examination. He/ She may ask you to go through some test as well.
- Skin Test to Diagnose Milk Allergy in Infants: Doctor can perform this test to check the allergic reaction on your baby's body after consuming that particular protein. Doctor will insert a very little amount of protein in the infant's skin. You can see raised bumps (hive) if your baby is allergic at the test location on their skin. However, these tests are not always precise for identifying milk allergy.
- Blood Test to Diagnose Milk Allergy in Infants: Doctor can perform this blood test to check the infant's system's reaction to milk. Similar to the skin test, this examination also does not confirm if the allergy is due to milk product.
- Oral Exam to Diagnose Milk Allergy in Infants: In some cases the doctor might request you to undergo an oral examination when its feels safe to perform. This test is to make the baby drink milk at the doctors clinic and wait for a couple of hours to observe for if there is any allergic reaction or not. Certain doctors would repeat the test to provide the best analysis.
Treatment for Milk Allergy in Infants
If your infant is prone to milk allergy or you are breastfeeding, then it is very significant to limit the intake of milk or dairy products as the milk protein, which causes allergy can get into your breast milk while feeding and it may affect your infant health. To treat this problem, you should contact your doctor or consult a dietitian regarding finding alternative and best sources of vital nutrients and to consume as an alternative to milk products which may cause allergy to your infant.
Since 2006 a resolution has been passed to all food makers, stating that it has been vital to clearly mention the ingredients used in packaged baby food which will surely be helpful to mothers in choosing the right baby food.
If you are feeding packed baby food, then your doctor might tell you to use soy protein based baby foods. In some cases, infant cannot stand soy, then the one and last option left with doctor is that he/she may suggest you to choose a hypoallergenic formula that has the essential proteins broken into smaller particles and the food is less allergic and will not cause any allergic reaction to infant.
Milk Replacements as an Alternative Treatment for Milk Allergy in Infants
Milk replacements such as Hypoallergenic formulas or SOY-based formulas can be used as an alternative treatment for milk allergy in infants. According to a rough estimate, milk allergy affects around 2 to 5 % of children worldwide. The Majority of studies states that, breastfeeding is very important and highly recommended for infant's healthy growth in spite of providing baby foods. The infants prone to allergies related to milk, for them breastfeeding is the only way to prevent allergic reactions. It is the finest nutrition source for your babies. Breastfeeding for the first 4 to 6 months of life if likely is highly suggested, mainly if your infant is prone to cow's milk allergies.
A second alternative can be the Hypoallergenic formulas that are made by using enzymes to break down milk proteins like whey or casein.
A Third alternative is to use SOY-based formulas which are replacement for milk. For the best information regarding alternatives you must consult your doctor if you doubt your child is allergic to milk or shows allergy symptoms after breastfeeding.