Food allergies are widespread these days, and the numbers are only rising. Many American schools have also taken nut allergies seriously. But today, there’s another allergy that’s every bit as serious. To your surprise, it has been a staple in the American diet.
The most common food allergy other than nuts is cow’s milk, seen in children younger than five years. Most children cope with it after a certain age, but if the allergy persists into teenagers or adulthood, it can cause severe reactions. Carla Davis, MD, director of the food allergy program at the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, has said that cow’s milk is the most distressing of all the allergies because many people are not even aware of it.
The number of children hospitalized for anaphylaxis increased 25% from 2006 to 2012. According to a 2019 analysis of data from pediatric hospitals in the United States, severe symptoms were more often associated with milk than with tree nuts or peanuts. Lack of awareness is what makes this allergy so dangerous for people. People need to take milk allergies as seriously as they do with nut allergies.
In people who have a milk allergy, the body treats some proteins such as whey and casein in milk as invaders. Immunoglobulin (Ig)E antibodies, which generally protect against bacteria, parasites, and viruses, can trigger inflammation and release histamine, leading to symptoms within a few minutes, ranging from swelling and rash to vomiting, difficulty swallowing, and difficulty breathing.
The mechanisms of milk allergies are different and complex as compared to other allergens. A blood test can detect it, but some people have positive results even if they are not allergic. It is also possible to receive a positive result and have any negative symptoms for years.
Milk Allergies Are Different From Lactose Intolerance
Some people confuse milk allergies with lactose intolerance, but it’s not the case. Lactose intolerance is a condition where a person lacks the enzyme to break down the sugar in milk which causes problems like bloating, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, etc., but it is not life-threatening.
Due to lactose intolerance being so common, people don’t take milk allergies seriously or consider them a life-threatening problem. However, on average, children with milk allergies first experienced allergy symptoms at the age of two. These reactions were hives, eczema, vomiting, diarrhea, etc. But most children grew out of it with time.
Allergy experts are planning to study the concept of food allergy prevention considering cow’s milk. The five-year iReach study, launched by the Center for Food Allergy & Asthma Research at Northwestern and Lurie Children’s Hospital, is currently enrolling 10,500 infants to test early exposure to peanuts, egg, milk, and cashew.
Adults who have recently developed allergies from cow’s milk should avoid all these food items:
- Milk Powder
- Ice Cream
If breastfeeding mothers have cow’s milk allergies, they should remove anything that contains cow’s milk from their diet.
Allergies from eggs are the second most cause of food allergy in children. However, just as in cow’s milk, around 68% of the children outgrow their allergy to eggs when they become 16.
Symptoms from egg allergies include:
- Skin Reactions, Such As Rash Or Hives
- Anaphylaxis (Which Is Rare)
- Digestive Distress, Such As A Stomach Ache
- Respiratory Problems
A wheat allergy is the body’s unusual response to one of the proteins found in wheat. Wheat allergy tends to affect children more. Like all the other allergies, wheat allergy may result in hives, rashes, vomiting, swelling, digestive distress, and anaphylaxis.
You can diagnose a wheat allergy through a skin pricking test. The only treatment for this allergy is to avoid all the food products containing wheat and cosmetics that contain wheat.
The Bottom Line
Cow’s milk has been a popular drink among children for its vitamins, calcium, and other nutrients. However, some of these same proteins are the triggers that the body identifies as foreign and attacks, which produces the allergic reaction event. That’s why it’s essential to spread awareness about dairy among people.
It could be difficult sometimes to differentiate between food allergies and intolerance. Unlike food intolerance, food allergies happen because the immune system wrongly identifies specific proteins in food items as harmful. If you have even the slightest doubts, consult your doctor.