Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Tests for Casein Allergies

Submitted on March 27, 2012

Casein refers to a type of protein present in milk and dairy foods. Other food products such as bread, sweets, cake mix, processed cereal and instant soups may also contain casein. The substance is even used to produce paints and adhesives.

Some individuals cannot tolerate casein in their system and develop an allergic reaction when they are exposed to it. Casein Allergy is a food allergy which develops when the immune system reacts to casein and attempts to destroy it.


The signs and symptoms of casein allergy include;

  • Redness, skin rash, eczema, hives and skin irritation
  • Abdominal cramps, colic, bloating and stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Wheezing
  • Nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing and coughing
  • Itching around the mouth
  • Swelling in the mouth, face and throat
  • Vomiting, flatulence, diarrhea
  • Ear infections
  • Watery and itchy eyes
  • Shortness of breath

In case of a severe allergic reaction, there may also be blood discharge in the stools, choking, low blood pressure and loss of consciousness. Anaphylaxis is the term used to describe a serious reaction to any allergen. This is a life threatening condition in which certain severe symptoms develop rapidly. Casein and other food allergies are known to be one of the most common causes of anaphylaxis. Individuals with asthma and casein allergy are at a higher risk of experiencing an anaphylactic reaction.

Anaphylaxis may lead to symptoms such as swelling in the mouth, chest pain and difficulty in breathing. These symptoms can occur just moments after consuming a food containing casein. Emergency medical assistance is required in case of an anaphylactic reaction.


Casein allergy occurs when the immune system of the body perceives casein proteins as harmful and releases antibodies to destroy and eliminate it from the body.

Tests Recommended

In order to determine if you have an allergy to casein, you doctor may ask you to describe your symptoms in detail. A physical examination may also be performed to identify if other health problems may be causing the symptoms. Many people with allergies are also asked to maintain a food diary which helps to monitor eating habits. You may also be asked to eliminate the possible allergens from the diet and then include them again to check for a reaction. The following tests may also be recommended to check for casein allergy;

  • Skin Test - The skin on the forearm or back is pricked and a small drop of the purified allergen is injected into the body. If you are allergic to casein protein, there will be a raised red bump in the injected area.
  • Blood Test - A blood sample is obtained and then analyzed in the laboratory. This test helps to study the response of the immune system to casein. It measures the levels of specific antibodies in the blood.

In case these tests are not helpful in determining casein allergy, your doctor may recommend an oral challenge. You will be given various foods, some of which may contain casein. The doctor will monitor your reaction to the foods which contain casein.

In case an allergy is still unconfirmed, your doctor may order additional tests in order to check for other medical conditions.


Treatment for casein allergy includes the following;

  • The best way to treat allergies is to avoid exposure to the allergen. Foods containing casein should be eliminated from the diet. You can consult an allergist in order to formulate a casein-free diet.
  • Some individuals who experience casein allergy may suffer from inadequacies of calcium. This can lead to weakening of the bones and osteoporosis. To prevent this, include calcium-rich foods in your diet such as nuts, shellfish and eggs. You can also consume calcium-enriched foods and beverages.
  • Medical treatment for casein allergy will include epinephrine which helps to soothe the bronchial passages. This also helps in treating and preventing breathing difficulty. You can also take over-the-counter medications to relieve itching and swelling caused by the condition.
  • Those who suffer from severe allergic reactions to casein may also have to carry epinephrine with them at all times. This is useful in case foods containing casein are accidentally ingested. The individual can inject himself with the epinephrine.
  • In case of an anaphylactic reaction, it is important to seek immediate medical attention.

The best way to prevent casein allergy is to avoid consuming foods which contain casein. Therefore food labels must be checked properly as even tiny amounts of casein can trigger a reaction. Avoid eating foods which are dipped in batter as they may contain milk. Even foods that are fried in oil which was previously used to fry milk-containing foods may trigger a reaction.

Instead of cow's milk, you can try out other options such as soy milk. Substitute ice creams with rice or soy based sweets.