Dairy allergy is mainly found in infants below the age of one. However, an allergy to dairy products can appear at any age. Several people misunderstand dairy allergy to be the same as lactose intolerance. Actually, they are totally two different diseases. Lactose intolerance occurs due to the lack of enzymes that are required for the digestion of lactose found in milk. It has no connection with the immune system. But, dairy allergy is more serious and is more severe compared to lactose intolerance. While lactose intolerance symptoms affect the stomach, dairy allergy symptoms occur in all the parts of the body. People with an allergy to dairy should avoid all the food products that contain milk or milk products.
Causes of dairy allergy
The proteins present in the dairy products are responsible for the allergic reactions. Casein and whey are the two protein components in milk that act as allergens. Casein is the solid part and whey is the water part of the milk. If an allergy sufferer consumes any dairy product, the immune system misinterprets these proteins as harmful substances to the body and start producing antibodies. These antibodies lead to the release of histamine, a chemical into the bloodstream and it triggers allergic reactions.
Symptoms of dairy allergy
The intensity of the allergy symptoms may vary from mild to severe reactions. Some of them develop soon after consumption of any dairy products while others may take hours to appear. The following are the common symptoms associated with dairy allergy.
Skin reactions: The skin of the patient becomes red and itchy due to the allergy to dairy and rashes and hives may develop on the skin.
Swelling: As a result of the allergy, the areas like lips, tongue, throat, mouth and face become swollen. Swelling of the throat may lead to severe breathing problems.
Digestive symptoms: As dairy allergy is a common type of food allergy, gastrointestinal system is affected by various symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, gas, abdominal cramps and bloating.
Respiratory symptoms: Allergy to dairy products makes the breathing of the patient difficult due to the constriction of throat due to swelling. It is also accompanied with several other symptoms such as watery eyes, runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, airway constriction and shortness of breath.
Anaphylaxis: If a person is severely allergic to dairy food products, anaphylaxis may occur. It happens when the lung is swollen and the normal flow of the air through the air passages is blocked. This symptom causes sudden drop in blood pressure, rapid pulse rate and chest tightness and pain. The patient may lose consciousness and it may even lead to death if not treated immediately.
Treatment of dairy allergy
Treatment of dairy allergy is determined according to the nature of the symptoms. Antihistamines are usually prescribed for treating mild allergy symptoms. An injection of epinephrine can be applied to give temporary relief to the patient with anaphylaxis. Some herbal remedies such as licorice and Siberian ginseng can also be used successfully to cure dairy allergy symptoms. In addition to these medications, the allergy sufferer should follow strict avoidance of eating dairy products to prevent the symptoms completely. Keep in mind that the foods such as cheese, milk, yogurt, frozen yogurt, ice cream, ice milk, pudding, custard, ghee, butter, and margarine are common sources of dairy and should be avoided. You can use soy products as an alternative substitute.
If you have to eliminate all dairy products, you may lack the required nutrition. Therefore, consulting a doctor is recommended as he can suggest you an appropriate diet that is allergy-free as well as nutritious.