Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

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.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2018


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

ASCIA Guide for Milk Substitutes in Cow’s Milk Allergy - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

Guide for Milk Substitutes in Cow’s Milk Allergy

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

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

How common is cow’s milk allergy? Cow’s 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

Food Allergy - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

Food allergy occurs in around 1 in 10 infants* and in about 1 in 100 adults.The majority of food allergies in children are not severe, and will disappear with time.The most common triggers are hen's egg, cow's milk, peanuts and tree nuts.Less common triggers include seafood, sesame, soy, fish and wheat.Peanuts, tree nuts, seeds and seafood are the major triggers for life long allergies.Some food allergies can be severe, causing life threatening reactions known as anaphylaxi

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Milk - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

Milk allergy is one of the most common food allergies in childhood, affecting about 1-2 percent of preschool children. Fortunately, most children will grow out of their milk allergy. Current anecdotal observation suggests that whilst, in the past, most children would outgrow their milk allergy before starting school, increasing numbers are now out growing their milk allergy much later. Some children enter high school years with milk allergy and outgrow it in their teen years and a small number d

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Frequently Asked Questions Nip Allergies in the Bub

Frequently Asked Questions General Allergy Are allergies increasing? Recent Australian research shows that 1 in 10 babies will develop a food allergy by one year of age

Read more on National Allergy Strategy 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

Eczema and Allergy Prevention Nip Allergies in the Bub

Eczema and Allergy Prevention There has been recent research looking into preventing eczema in babies and also preventing food allergies in babies who develop eczema

Read more on National Allergy Strategy website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo