No mother would want her child to be allergic to milk; however, unfortunately almost 2% to 3% of babies are allergic to it. A milk allergy affects infants when the child's immune system incorrectly identifies the milk protein as a threat to the body and therefore needs to fought off.
It should be noted that babies who are breastfed have lesser risk of developing a milk allergy as compared to those who are fed baby formula. Moreover, a milk allergy should not be confused with lactose intolerance as is usually the case.
The symptoms of milk allergy in infants will normally appear within the initial months or within days or weeks of when you start feeding your child cow's milk-based formula. The reaction can either be immediately after feeding or may take a few days to manifest. Some of the symptoms to watch out for are as follows:
The rapid onset reactions that occur almost immediately after consumption and are definite signs of a milk allergy in infants are swelling, bloody diarrhea, wheezing, vomiting, hives, and itchy bumps on the skin. If the baby goes into anaphylactic shock then the skin, breathing, blood pressure and stomach of the baby will be affected.
If you notice any of these symptoms and suspect your infant is allergic to milk, immediately contact your doctor who will conduct a series of tests to rule out or confirm the problem. Make sure to mention your family history in relation to food allergies and intolerances as this may help. A stool, blood, and allergy skin test may be done on your child to confirm the allergic reaction. A tiny amount of milk protein will be inserted under the child's skin, if a wheal appears the child has a milk allergy. If this is the case the doctor may advise you to avoid milk and milk products.
The best treatment for infants with a milk allergy is to avoid giving them milk. Also, if you are breastfeeding, avoid the quantity of dairy products that you eat. Speak to your doctor or dietician on finding other sources of calcium to restore what you were getting from dairy products. Also check all labels of food products to see whether they contain milk or milk-based ingredients. If you are feeding your baby with formula, the doctor will probably switch you to a hypoallergenic formula that suits your baby's needs. Once you start including the new formula into the baby's diet, your baby should feel better within 2 to 3 weeks's time.
The good news is that most children outgrow the allergy when they are around 3 to 5 years old, but make sure to keep a close eye out for any allergic reactions.