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Allergy from Cow’s Milk

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Allergy to the proteins in cow’s milk tends to affect infants in the earliest stages of their lives.
  • Allergy to cow’s milk proteins manifests itself through skin, respiratory and digestive systems.
  • Allergy in newborns to the cow’s milk proteins is the result of either the mother or the father having a history of allergies.
  • Substitutes for cow’s milk include extensively hydrolyzed cow’s milk protein formula, amino acid-based milk formula, chicken-based milk formula and rice-based formula.

 

The full name of this particular condition is actually an allergy to the proteins found in cow’s milk. When infants of under one year of age who are allergic to cow’s milk drink it, they either experience a sudden onset of symptoms, or symptoms which may gradually occur over a period of 2-3 weeks. Throughout the world, it is believed that 3% of children are born with this type of allergy. In Thailand, there are 700,000 successful births per year, which means that there are around 20,000 children born each year with an allergy to the proteins found in cow’s milk.

What are the symptoms of a cow’s milk allergy?

Generally, there are 3 major symptoms which tend to occur independent of each other during the first 4 weeks after the consumption of cow’s milk.

  1. Skin-related symptoms that include hives and red, itchy rashes, which break out all over the body, or which may only affect certain areas of the body. Alternatively, rashes in the form of itchy, pus-filled bumps may also result from the consumption of cow’s milk.
  2. Respiratory symptoms which may lead to a chronically blocked nose, a chronic runny nose, a buildup of mucus in the throat and in severe cases, pneumonia.
  3. Digestive symptoms that tend to range from immediately vomiting the milk or vomiting frequently, crying resulting from nightly colic, chronic diarrhea or even severe constipation.

Causes which parents should be aware of:

  • Newborns with an allergy to the proteins in cow’s milk tend to have at least one of the parents also suffer from allergies, usually in the form of allergic rhinitis or food allergies. It may sometimes be the case that the parents do not experience any symptoms of their allergy at all.
  • Does a pregnant mother’s consumption of cow’s milk lead to her child being born with an allergy? Currently, there is no definitive evidence of this because there are huge numbers of mothers who drink cow’s milk during pregnancy and subsequently give birth to children who do not suffer from an allergy to cow’s milk.
  • Not breastfeeding your child increases the risk of an allergy to cow’s milk.
  • If mothers consume a lot of cow’s milk after giving birth, the protein may be transferred to the child via the mother’s breast milk. However, the most likely reason behind the cow’s milk allergy is a pre-existing intolerance.

How can you tell if your child is allergic to cow’s milk?

If you suspect that your child may be allergic to cow’s milk, doctors around the world suggest that you replace cow’s milk with a different form of milk for a period of around 3 weeks until the child’s symptoms gradually go away. Then you introduce the cow’s milk back into their diet and if the symptoms return, you will know they are allergic. This technique is the most widely recognized form of diagnosis for a cow’s milk allergy.

If a child is allergic to cow’s milk, how can the condition be treated?

When it is suspected that a child is suffering from a cow’s milk allergy, they should be given specially made milk formulas instead. Currently, there are 4 main cow’s milk substitutes available in Thailand:

  1. Extensively hydrolyzed cow’s milk protein formula
  2. Amino acid-based milk formula
  3. Chicken-based milk formula
  4. Low protein rice-based, amino acid-based formula, which contains protein from amino acids and sugars found in rice flour

When you find a milk formula that is suited to your child’s needs, continue using that formula for a period of at least 6 months before attempting to re-introduce cow’s milk into their diet.

Can infants grow out of their cow’s milk allergy?

The following are statistics on children developing a tolerance to the protein found in cow’s milk based on their age:

  • By 12 months, 70% of children have developed a tolerance
  • By 18 months, 75% of children have developed a tolerance
  • By 2 years of age, 80% of children have developed a tolerance
  • By 3 years of age, 90% of children have developed a tolerance

Additionally, only 1% of children will still be allergic to cow’s milk by the time they reach 10 years of age.

 


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