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Allergic reactions to cow's milk

2-minute read

Allergy to cow's milk is one of the most common food allergies in childhood and affects about 1-2% of preschool children. Most children grow out of it by the age of 3-5 years — less than 0.1% of school age children have cow's milk allergy. True allergy to cow's milk is rare in adults.

Cow's milk allergy is often due to an immune system reaction against milk proteins. Exposure to even a trace amount of milk protein can be a problem for someone with milk protein allergy.

Symptoms of allergy to cow's milk may include a rash (eczema or hives), swelling, abdominal pain or vomiting, diarrhoea or breathing difficulties.

Anaphylaxis is the most severe allergic reaction and requires immediate treatment. Symptoms include difficulty/noisy breathing and swelling of the tongue. If you think someone is having an allergic reaction, seek medical advice urgently as symptoms can worsen rapidly. If breathing is affected, call triple zero (000).

Diagnosis of cow's milk allergy is often obvious when symptoms occur within minutes of exposure. Skin prick allergen tests from your doctor may also help. When symptoms are delayed, cow's milk allergy can be harder to diagnose.

Lactose in cow's milk is a problem for people who lack the enzyme lactose, but this is different to cow's milk allergy.

Choosing Wisely and allergen testing

The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy recommends you should speak to your doctor or specialist about the benefits and safety of allergen immunotherapy or before attempting any allergy testing or treatment. For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

Follow the links below to find trusted information about allergic reactions to cow's milk.

Last reviewed: October 2018

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Allergy - Milk allergy and milk free diet | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

How common is cows milk allergy? Cows milk allergy is one of the most common food allergies in childhood affecting about 1-2% of preschool children

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Cow’s milk allergy - Better Health Channel

Milk allergy symptoms range from mild to a life-threatening severe allergic reaction. Avoid food containing milk only under strict medical supervision.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Cow`s milk (dairy) allergy - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

Cow's milk is a common cause of food allergy in infants. In Australia and New Zealand around 2 per cent (1 in 50) infants are allergic to cow's milk and other dairy products. Although most children outgrow cow's milk allergy by the age of 3-5 years, in some people cow's milk allergy may not resolve.

Read more on ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website

Food allergy - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

Food allergy occurs in around 1 in 20 children and in about 2 in 100 adults. The most common triggers are egg, cow's milk, peanut, tree nuts, seafood, sesame, soy, fish and wheat.

Read more on ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Cow's milk allergy - babies

The human body is, fortunately, able to fight off many different diseases and chemicals that could do us harm because of the immune system

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Bottle feeding - soy infant formulas

Where a baby is unable to have cow's milk because of cow's milk allergy or lactose intolerance soy infant formulas may be suggested instead

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

ASCIA Dietary avoidance for food allergy - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

A general information sheet about dietary avoidance and a rangeofdiet sheets for 9 of the most common food allergenshave been developed by ASCIA.TheASCIA diet sheet general informationshould beprinted in conjunction with the appropriate ASCIA diet sheets sheet/s for specific foodallergens.ASCIA diet sheet general information 2014209.31 KBASCIA diet sheet - cows milk protein (dairy) allergy 2014179.59 KBASCIA diet sheet -

Read more on ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website

Food allergy FAQs - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

The following frequently asked questions (FAQ) and answers about food allergy are based on inquiries that have been received by, or forwarded to the Australasian Society of Clinical immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) since 1999. This document is regularly updated as new questions are received or new information becomes available

Read more on ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website

Food allergy information | myVMC

Food allergies are common in children and adults. Peanuts, milk and dairy products, eggs, meat and fish are the most common food allergens.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Milk allergy information | myVMC

Milk allergy is an immune response to the consumption of dairy products, causing allergic skin and gastrointestinal symptoms. It is common in babies.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

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