Cow’s milk allergy is the most common form of allergy in children. About 2 to 6% of infants in the Netherlands have a cow’s milk allergy. By the age of two, about half of those children have outgrown the allergy. It is much less common in older children and adults. In people with a cow’s milk allergy, the immune system reacts strongly to the allergens found in cow’s milk.
Cow’s milk allergy, what is it?
Cow’s milk contains a large number of allergens , the most important being beta lactoglobulin. With an allergy to cow’s milk, the body reacts violently to milk due to a reaction of the immune system. Cow’s milk allergy is most common in bottle-fed infants. Infant milk is made from modified cow’s milk. The infant’s intestines are not yet fully mature and can pass protein particles from the milk, after which they enter the blood. The body then produces antibodies against this foreign protein. This causes the complaints. Breastfed children can also develop cow’s milk allergy. Traces of cow’s milk allergens enter breast milk when the mother drinks milk.
Symptoms of cow’s milk allergy
- Stomach/intestinal complaints, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or constipation and colic
- Skin complaints, e.g. eczema
- Respiratory complaints such as asthma, bronchitis, inflammation of the eyes and nasal mucosa
- Irritability and restlessness
- Anaphylactic reactions, however, are rare
Diagnosis of cow’s milk allergy
It is wise to leave the diagnosis to a doctor. There are many symptoms that are reminiscent of cow’s milk allergy, but have a different cause. If you simply omit milk from the diet, the child may develop complaints because it is receiving inadequate nutrition. Costs of replacement milk are reimbursed if the diagnosis has been made by a doctor, otherwise not. Cow’s milk-free food is a lot more expensive than regular food, so this is important.
Every mother who is breastfeeding and whose child cries a lot and has intestinal cramps should first avoid eating citrus fruits, cabbage, onions, leeks, sharp herbs and spices. If this does not improve the condition, visit your doctor. This will carry out a load test and possibly a skin test and blood test to make the diagnosis.
Where does cow’s milk protein come from?
Cow’s milk protein is found in many different products, such as milk, yogurt, buttermilk, custard, pudding, coffee milk, umer, cottage cheese, sour cream, cheese, cheese spread, ice cream, fruit juices with whey. There may also be traces in bread, breadcrumbs, luxury rolls, cookies, meat products, butter and margarine.
Packages may contain the following ingredients if they contain cow’s milk protein;
- milk, milk powder, milk solids
- whey, whey powder
- caseinate, casein, milk protein
You can request a list of branded items from the nutrition center, a useful tool when doing your shopping.
When to start with foods
A child with cow’s milk allergy is often also prone to developing other allergies. It is wise not to give certain foods before the child is 12 months old;
- Highly allergenic products such as dairy products, soy, fish, wheat. seeds and kernels
- Foods that often cause hypersensitivity reactions such as citrus fruits, chocolate, pork, tomatoes, strawberries, spices
- Egg, nuts, peanuts, crustaceans, shellfish
Cow’s milk allergy in adults
The doctor will examine the complaints and, if necessary, be followed by blood tests and a skin test. Furthermore, a referral will be made to a dietician, who will take a nutritional history . Sometimes a food diary is kept or a standard elimination diet is given. Cow’s milk allergy in adults can coexist with other food allergies or food intolerances.