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Allergic reactions to cow's milk

Allergy to cow's milk is an immune system reaction (true allergy) against proteins in milk. About 1 infant in 50 is allergic to cow’s milk and dairy products. Most of these children will outgrow cow’s milk allergy by the time they are 4 years old. Exposure to even a trace amount of milk protein can be a problem for someone with milk protein allergy. True allergy to cow’s milk is rare in adults.

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

Anaphylaxis is the most severe allergic reaction and requires immediate treatment. 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 2016

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

The human body is, fortunately, able to fight off many different diseases and chemicals that could do us harm because of the immune system. However sometimes the body's defences go wrong and there is an allergic reaction to something such as a food.

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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, but most grow out of this condition and ongoing symptoms in adults is very rare.

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

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Cow's milk protein (dairy) - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

The ASCIA diet sheet general information should be printed in conjunction with the ASCIA diet sheet for cows milk protein (dairy) and soy allergy.

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

Cows milk protein (dairy), egg and soy allergy - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

The ASCIA diet sheet general information should be printed in conjunction with the ASCIA diet sheets for cows milk protein (dairy), egg and soy allergy.

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

Cow's milk protein (dairy) and soy - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

The ASCIA diet sheet general information should be printed in conjunction with the ASCIA diet sheet for cows milk protein (dairy) and soy allergy.

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

Egg - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

The ASCIA diet sheet general information should be printed in conjunction with the ASCIA diet sheets for cows milk protein (dairy), egg and soy allergy.

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

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

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network 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

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