Skip to content

Milk allergies are a response from the body's immune system to dairy products and have become one of the most common food allergies in kids.

Cow's milk is the primary cause of this dairy allergy, but milk from sheep, goats, buffalo may also cause an allergic reaction that occurs shortly after you or your kid consumes milk. These allergies can also trigger anaphylaxis, a severe, life-threatening reaction.

Avoiding dairy products is the quickest and most natural treatment for milk allergy.


Each person will react differently: One person may show signs within a few minutes when others only a few hours after consuming a product with Dairy on the ingredient list.

Dairy allergy signs occurring within moments may be:

  • Hives
  • Wheezing
  • Itching or tingling feeling
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
  • Coughing or shortness of breath
  • Nausea

Delayed signs and symptoms may be:

  • Diarrhea, which may contain blood
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Colic

Allergy or intolerance to Dairy?

The true milk allergy differs from lactose and milk protein intolerance, which does not involve the immune system, whereas an allergy does.

Milk intolerance treatment is different from the one for milk allergy. Frequent symptoms of milk protein intolerance or lactose intolerance include digestive problems, such as bloating, gas, or diarrhea, after consuming Dairy.


a life-threatening reaction may be caused by Dairy that narrows the airways and can block breathing.

Dairy is the third most common food after peanuts and tree nuts responsible for anaphylaxis.

If you or your child reacts to dairy products, inform your doctor as soon as possible. (even if minor symptoms)

Going for tests is helpful to confirm the allergy so that you can avoid future and possibly dangerous reactions.

Anaphylaxis is an emergency that requires an epinephrine (adrenaline) shot (EpiPen, Adrenaclick, others) and a visit to the hospital.

When to call a doctor:

Contact your doctor if you or your child experience milk allergy symptoms shortly after consuming milk.

If possible, seeing the doctor when experiencing the allergic reaction is best to help the doctor make a diagnosis.

Call for emergency if you or your child develops symptoms of anaphylaxis.


A true food allergy is caused by an immune system malfunction.

In the case of a milk allergy, what happens is:

  1. Your immune system identifies milk proteins as harmful.
  2. It will trigger the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to neutralize the protein (allergen).
  3. Whenever you come in contact with these proteins, IgE antibodies recognize them and signal your immune system to release histamine and other chemicals.
  4. The result will be a range of allergic signs and symptoms.

In cow's milk, two proteins can cause an allergic reaction:

1) Casein, found in the solid part (curd) of milk that curdles

2) Whey, found in the liquid part of milk that remains after milk curdles

Nowadays, it is challenging to avoid these two proteins as they are in most of the processed foods.

Risk factors:

Certain factors may increase the risk of developing milk allergy:

  • Other allergies. Many people allergic to milk also have other allergies. Milk allergy may develop before other allergies.
  • Atopic dermatitis. Children who have atopic dermatitis — a chronic inflammation of the skin — are much more likely to develop a food allergy.
  • Family history. A person's risk of a food allergy increases if one or both parents have a food allergy or another type of allergy or allergic diseases — such as hay fever, asthma, hives, or eczema.
  • Age. Milk allergy is more common in children. As they age, their digestive systems mature, and their bodies are less likely to react to milk.


Children who are allergic to milk are more likely to develop specific other health problems, including:

  • Allergies to other foods — such as eggs, soy, peanuts or even beef
  • Hay fever — a common reaction to pet dander, dust mites, grass pollen, and other substances.


There's no sure way to prevent a food allergy, but you can prevent reactions by avoiding the food that causes them.

If you know you or your child is allergic to Dairy, avoid milk and any milk products.

Read food labels carefully.

Look for casein, as it can be part of some canned tuna, sausages, and even nondairy products.

Question a dish and its way of preparation when ordering in restaurants.

Dairy sources:

Sources of allergy-causing dairy products:

  • Whole milk, low-fat milk, skim milk, buttermilk
  • Butter
  • Yogurt
  • Ice cream, gelato
  • Dairy cheese and anything that contains dairy cheese
  • Half-and-half
  • Processed foods
  • Baked goods
  • Processed meats.

Hidden sources of milk include:

  • Whey
  • Casein
  • Ingredients spelled with the prefix "lact" — such as lactose and lactate
  • Candies, such as chocolate, nougat, and caramel
  • Protein powders
  • Artificial butter flavor
  • Artificial cheese flavor
  • Hydrolysates

Even if a food is labeled "milk-free" or "nondairy," it may contain allergy-causing milk proteins — so you have to read the label carefully.

When in doubt, contact the manufacturer to be sure a product doesn't contain milk ingredients.

If you're at risk of a severe allergic reaction, talk with your doctor about carrying and using emergency epinephrine (adrenaline).

If you have already had a severe reaction, wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace that lets others know you have a food allergy.

Milk alternatives for infants:

In children who are allergic to milk, breastfeeding, and the use of hypoallergenic formula can prevent allergic reactions.

  • Breastfeeding: is the best source of nutrition for your infant. Breast-feeding for as long as possible remains the best option, especially if your infant is at high risk of developing milk allergy.
  • Hypoallergenic formulas: are produced by using enzymes to break down (hydrolyze) milk proteins, such as casein or whey.

Further processing can include heat and filtering. Depending on the level of processing, products are classified as either partially or extensively hydrolyzed. Or they may also be called elemental formulas.

  • Some hypoallergenic formulas are dairy-free, but instead, contain amino acids. Besides extensively hydrolyzed products, amino-acid-based formulas are the least likely to cause an allergic reaction.
  • Soy-based formulas: Made from soy protein are fortified to be nutritionally complete — but, unfortunately, some children with a milk allergy also develop an allergy to soy.

If you are breastfeeding, talk to your doctor if you know or suspect that your child has a dairy allergy and develops allergy symptoms after breastfeeding.

If you or your child is going dairy-free, a visit to the doctor or dietitian will be useful.

You will look at alternatives to have the necessary vitamins and minerals (Vitamin D, B12 included in your diet.

Leave a Comment