Cow’s milk allergy is an allergy to the milk proteins in cow's milk (and different from lactose intolerance). It is the most common food allergy in infants and young children in the UK. It usually affects 1 in 50 babies in the 1st year of life. Most children outgrow cow's milk allergy by the age of three to five years. However, in some people cow's milk allergy may not be outgrown.
The following educational films have been developed to help you better understand cow’s milk allergy and how to look after your child with suspected milk allergy
Symptoms occur immediately and up to an hour after consuming cow’s milk or other dairy containing food. Symptoms include one of more of the following:
Diagnosis is based on the history of reaction to milk and additional allergy tests. Allergy tests (skin tests or blood tests) to cow’s milk are usually positive for rapid onset reactions. Treatment is the strict avoidance of milk and dairy food in child’s diet.
Delayed reactions usually occur 2 hours to 72 hours after consuming cow’s milk or other dairy foods. It can be difficult to spot the symptoms of food allergy – even for your doctor. The signs and symptoms of cow’s milk allergy can be mistaken for other common conditions seen in babies and infants.
Delayed allergy symptoms may include diarrhoea, constipation, reflux, vomiting, mucous/blood in stools, nausea, tummy pain, bloating, painful wind, eczema. Allergy tests to cow’s milk are usually negative for these reactions. Diagnosis usually involves excluding cow’s milk and other dairy foods from the diet for a trial period of two to four weeks to check for a clear improvement. A planned home challenge of cow’s milk and other dairy foods should occur to confirm diagnosis before longer term avoidance is advised.
Not all reactions to cow’s milk are due to allergy to cow’s milk protein
See our lactose intolerance page.
Management of cow’s milk allergy involves removing dairy foods from the diet