Symptoms of dairy allergy: 5 signs you’re allergic to milk

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  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea

Lactose intolerance is also more common in adults and tends to develop with age. This is because as you get older your body begins to produce less lactase, an enzyme needed to effectively break down lactose.ten. So, even if you have enjoyed dairy products throughout your life, you can start to develop symptoms of intolerance at any time.

What are the causes of a dairy allergy?

“A true dairy allergy is caused when your immune system develops allergic antibodies to cow’s milk or cow’s milk proteins,” says Purvi Parikh, MD11, allergist and immunologist for the Allergy & Asthma Network, a nonprofit and network for patients and healthcare providers.

When you drink milk or eat dairy products, your immune system encounters certain proteins in milk. But if you are allergic, it identifies these proteins as a threat and in turn triggers the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to fight them. This switch can toggle even after ingesting dairy products without any problems, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

“The causes of this imbalance in the immune system are not entirely clear, and a multitude of factors are probably responsible,” explains Dr Ligresti. You may be more at risk of developing an allergy to dairy products if you have other allergies; atopic dermatitis (a common chronic skin condition); or a family history of allergies or allergic diseases such as hay fever, asthma, hives or eczema.

Whatever the cause, the next time you are exposed to dairy products, the IgE antibodies recognize these proteins as dangerous intruders and alert your immune system to release histamine. It’s this chemical that causes a flood of allergy symptoms throughout your body, according to the Mayo Clinic.

To add to the complexity of dairy allergies, ingestion of dairy products can sometimes cause delayed reactions several hours later, especially in infants and young children. This phenomenon is called food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES), which some experts distinguish as food hypersensitivity.12, while others call it a non-IgE food allergy13, since the underlying mechanism is not fully understood. Cow’s milk, soy, and grains are the most common dietary triggers for FPIES. Fortunately, most kids get past it within a few years, says Dr. Sindher.

What are the symptoms of a dairy allergy?

When your immune system releases histamine, it recruits a whole host of immune cells and together they trigger massive, uncontrolled inflammation and irritation throughout the body, says Dr. Parikh. Here’s what might follow and how to deal with it.

1. Swelling of the face and throat or wheezing

Anaphylaxis is a serious and life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur quickly after ingesting dairy products. Swelling of the face, throat and mouth that can cause a lump in the throat or difficulty breathing are among the most urgent signs that you need urgent medical attention, says Dr. Sindher. Treatment includes an injection of epinephrine (EpiPen), an emergency room exam, and a follow-up appointment with a specialist to make sure you are ready to prevent and manage potential reactions in the future.

2. A rapid pulse

If you have the impression that your heart is pounding or pounding in your chest after ingesting dairy products, this is another potential sign of anaphylaxis. In this case, it is essential to seek help immediately14.

3. Dizziness, lightheadedness or loss of consciousness

Dizziness or even fainting could also indicate anaphylaxis. Again, head to the emergency room or immediately call emergency transport.

4. Skin hives

An itchy rash can also be a sign of a dairy allergy, occurring within minutes to 2-3 hours after exposure. If you have hives on your face or body, which looks like a flush of red pimples, along with other signs of a serious allergic reaction like difficulty breathing or breathing problems, see a doctor right away. Otherwise, make an appointment with a dermatologist to determine what might be irritating your skin.15. Regardless of the source, the first-line treatment for hives usually includes antihistamines, drugs that block the effects of histamine that triggers hives, or a steroid drug, which reduces inflammation.

5. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea

When a wave of inflammation hits your gastrointestinal tract due to a dairy allergy, it can trigger an upset stomach, vomiting, or even bloody stools (especially in infants). In particular, FPIES can trigger severe vomiting and diarrhea16. So if you have a baby who can’t stop vomiting after drinking formula several hours before, go to the doctor for a checkup, says Dr. Sindher.


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