Dairy Allergy

Dairy allergy is one such food allergy that develops when the immune system starts responding adversely to certain proteins present in milk. Many people assume that dairy allergy is the same as lactose intolerance. Actually, they are two completely different conditions. Lactose intolerance results due to the absence of enzymes that are required for the digestion of lactose sugar present in milk, and it has got nothing to do with the immune system. The symptoms of dairy allergy are far more serious as compared to that of lactose intolerance. This allergy is most commonly found in infants below the age of 1. However, some adults may acquire it in the later part of life. Most of the infants who have this allergy outgrow it as they grow older, whereas others may continue to have it throughout their life.

Causes

The proteins that are present in dairy products act as allergens and are responsible for this kind of food allergy. Casein and whey are the two protein components of milk that give allergic reactions. If you observe the yogurt, then you may identify these proteins separately. Casein is the solid part of the milk, whereas whey is the watery part. When allergic people consume dairy products, the immune system assume these proteins to be unwanted substances that have entered the body. As a result, it releases large amounts of antibodies and histamines to control these intruders which give rise to inflammation and various allergy symptoms.

Symptoms

The intensity of the symptoms often vary from mild to severe. Some of them appear as soon as one consumes any dairy food, while others may take hours before they become evident. The symptoms that are visible on the skin surface are red and itchy skin rashes, hives, swelling in areas like the lips, face, mouth, tongue, and throat. Its impact on the digestive system results in diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps, gas, and bloating. Due to the allergic reaction, the respiratory system shows symptoms like wheezing, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, watery eyes, breathing difficulty, etc.

If the allergy becomes serious, then it may lead to anaphylaxis. This happens when the lungs swell and block the normal flow of air through the air passage. Thus the normal breathing of the patient get affected, the blood pressure drops, and heartbeat rises. In such a condition, the patient may lose consciousness and this may be life-threatening. The symptoms in adults and infants are more or less the same. However, there are some additional symptoms in infants. Due to the milk allergy infants tend to get ear and sinus infections more frequently. Other symptoms are eczema, frequent bed-wetting, and lack of energy.

Treatment

The treatment for this condition largely depends on its symptoms. For mild symptoms, antihistamine medicines are prescribed. The condition of anaphylaxis has to be treated immediately. Epinephrine injections are given and the person is kept under observation for several hours. These treatments provide relief from the allergy symptoms only temporarily. In most cases, it is advised that the patient must strictly avoid milk and any other dairy products. Alternatively, there are some herbal supplements like licorice root and Siberian ginseng which have successfully cured this condition in many patients.

Milk and its products are a rich source of calcium, which is an essential nutrient. In such cases, you may take an alternative substitute in the form of soy products. Even for infants with dairy allergy, soy-based formulas are available in the market.




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