Milk Allergy or Lactose Intolerance – How to Tell the Difference?
People sometimes think that an allergy to milk is the same thing as lactose intolerance. However, these are two different ailments. Perhaps the confusion comes from the fact that both milk allergy and lactose intolerance are caused by something that’s in milk. Both conditions also have some of the same symptoms. Still, they are two different things that require different treatment. And because allergies can be lethal, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.
A Word About Food Allergies
There are four main types of allergies. They are inhalant, injection, contact and ingestion allergies. Food allergies are of the ingested type, which means that the allergen you’re allergic to enters your body when you consume it. A little-known syndrome-type allergy is pollen-food allergy syndrome (or oral allergy syndrome). It involves a tie between particular (inhalant) pollen allergies and particular food allergies.
Wheat, shellfish, fish, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs and cow’s milk cause 90% of food allergies. Cow’s milk is responsible for most of the allergic reactions in kids. Foodallergy.org states that about 2.5% of kids under three are allergic to cow’s milk, but this condition typically quickly resolves itself during childhood. Adults most commonly react to peanuts, nuts, fish or shellfish.
Milk Allergy Types
Although cow’s milk accounts for most milk allergies, milk allergies can also come from consuming rice, almond or soy milk. Compare the various milk types here:
Cow’s Milk Allergies
Up to seven per cent of babies are allergic to cow’s milk. About 80% of them will outgrow this condition by the age of 16. Indications that an infant may be allergic to cow’s milk include gagging, refusing to eat, irritability and colic on top of the usual symptoms, which we’ll discuss below. Allergy reactions to cow’s milk can include anaphylactic shock.
Breast Milk Allergies
Infants that react to human breast milk are likely to have an allergic reaction to the cow’s milk that their mother drank. It’s also important to note that cow’s milk is a common infant formula ingredient.
Rice Milk Allergies
Allergic reactions to rice milk are extremely rare in the West, which is why many parents give their infants rice milk instead of cow’s milk. However, rice milk allergies can also result in anaphylactic shock.
Almond Milk Allergies
Almonds are tree nuts. Only nine per cent of kids who have this allergy will grow out of it. Tree nuts account for most of the food allergy problems in adults. Many adults who have a peanut (legume) allergy also have a tree nut allergy. People who go into anaphylactic shock are usually allergic to tree nuts and peanuts.
Soy Milk Allergies – Soybeans are one of the main eight foods that cause food allergies. Soy milk allergies rarely result in anaphylactic shock. This may be the reason that most paediatricians recommend soy-based formulas for babies who are allergic to cow’s milk. Other baby formula alternatives are fully hypoallergenic ones. Kids usually outgrow soy milk allergies at a young age.
What Causes Milk Allergies?
A milk allergy occurs when a faulty immune system misidentifies particular food proteins as harmful. Animal milk, such as cow’s milk, contains many proteins. But it’s the alpha S1-casein protein, says healthline.com, that is misidentified in animal milk.
Problems Caused by Milk Allergies
Milk allergy reactions can range from mild to severe. Some symptoms take hours to days to show up, while others come on quickly. Allergic responses to soy, rice and almond milk are nearly identical to those of cow’s milk. Here are some common cow’s milk allergy symptoms that may develop over time.
- Runny nose
- Sinus infection
- Nose polyps
- Intermittent coughing
- Skin rash
- Flaky, peeling skin
- Abdominal cramps
- Slow to gain height or weight
Quick-developing allergy symptoms include:
An allergic reaction can become life-threatening if a person goes into anaphylactic shock because this condition can suffocate the person or cause cardiac arrest. Instead of a visit to see a doctor, a shock sufferer will need an immediate shot of epinephrine to recover.
Anaphylactic shock symptoms come on quickly. Breathing and blood pressure problems indicate the likelihood that the person is going into shock. Know the signs of anaphylactic shock so that you’ll get the person a quick, life-saving shot of epinephrine. Symptoms of anaphylactic shock include:
- Swelling of the throat and mouth
- Trouble breathing
- A drop in blood pressure
- A weak or fast pulse
- Flushed skin
- Pale skin
About Lactose Intolerance
Around 70% of the world’s population experiences lactose intolerance, usually affecting Hispanic, African and Asian adults. Both milk allergies and lactose intolerance occur after consuming a dairy product. Lactose intolerance causes some of the same digestion problems that a milk allergy does.
What Causes Lactose Intolerance?
Despite their similarities, milk allergies and lactose intolerances are caused by different things. Lactose intolerance has nothing to do with milk protein, but everything to do with milk sugar. Words that end with “ose,” such as fructose, sucrose, etc., refer to some type of sugar. Lactose is a dairy sugar.
Lactose intolerance occurs when the small intestine produces an insufficient amount of the enzyme lactase, which digests and absorbs lactose. In the absence of sufficient lactase to break down the lactose in the stomach, the lactose remains undigested. According to bones.nih.gov, undigested lactose causes the classic lactose intolerance symptoms of gas buildup, bloating, stomach cramps and diarrhoea.
Fortunately, lactose intolerance does not present life-threatening symptoms. However, the sufferer can develop osteoporosis in old age if he does not find another way to get sufficient calcium and vitamin D in his diet.
How are Milk Allergies and Lactose Intolerance Diagnosed?
Milk allergy and lactose intolerance sufferers need professional help to improve their quality of life. Diagnosis involves testing. Determination of food allergies involves a food elimination diet as well. If you need to find an experienced allergist in Hudson Valley in the Newburgh, New York area, contact the Hudson Valley Sinus Center.