What to do for babies with allergies
Cows’ milk allergy (CMA), also called cows’ milk protein allergy, is one of the most common childhood food allergies. It is estimated to affect around 7% of babies under 1, though most children grow out of it by the age of 5.
CMA typically develops when cows’ milk is first introduced into your baby’s diet either in formula or when your baby starts eating solids.
More rarely, it can affect babies who are exclusively breastfed because of cows’ milk from the mother’s diet passing to the baby through breast milk.
There are 2 main types of CMA:
- immediate CMA – where symptoms typically start within minutes of having cows’ milk
- delayed CMA – where symptoms typically start several hours, or even days, after having cows’ milk
Could it be lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is another type of reaction to milk, when the body cannot digest lactose, a natural sugar found in milk.
However, this is not an allergy.
Lactose intolerance can be temporary – for example, it can come on for a few days or weeks after a tummy bug.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance include:
- stomach rumbling and pains
Symptoms of cows’ milk allergy
Cows’ milk allergy can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:
- skin reactions – such as a red itchy rash or swelling of the lips, face and around the eyes
- hay fever-like symptoms – such as a runny or blocked nose
- digestive problems – such as stomach ache, vomiting, colic, diarrhoea or constipation
- eczema that does not improve with treatment
Occasionally CMA can cause severe allergic symptoms that come on suddenly, such as swelling in the mouth or throat, wheezing, cough, shortness of breath, and difficult, noisy breathing.
A severe allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, is a medical emergency – call 999 or go immediately to your local hospital A&E department.
Treatment for lactose intolerance
Treatment depends on the extent of your child’s intolerance. Some children with lactose intolerance may be capable to own little amounts of dairy products without having symptoms.
Your kid may be referred to a dietitian for specialist advice.
Read more about treatment for lactose intolerance in children.
Sheet final reviewed: 12 July 2019
Next review due: 12 July 2022
Exclusive breastfeeding or first baby formula is recommended for around the first 6 months of life.
If your baby has a cow’s milk allergy and is not being breastfed, talk to your GP about what helpful of formula to give your baby.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women don’t need to avoid foods that can trigger allergic reactions (including peanuts), unless you’re allergic to them.
If your baby already has an allergy such as a diagnosed food allergy or eczema, or if you own a family history of food allergies, eczema, asthma or hay-fever, you may need to be particularly careful when introducing foods, so talk to your GP or health visitor first.
Treatment for CMA
If your baby is diagnosed with CMA, you’ll be offered advice by your GP or an allergy specialist on how to manage their allergy.
You may also be referred to a dietitian.
Treatment involves removing every cows’ milk from your child’s diet for a period of time.
If your baby is formula-fed, your GP can prescribe special baby formula.
Do not give your kid any other type of milk without first getting medical advice.
If your baby is exclusively breastfed, the mom will be advised to avoid every cows’ milk products.
Your kid should be assessed every 6 to 12 months to see if they own grown out of their allergy.
Read more about cows’ milk allergy.