Outgrowing a Cow’s Milk Allergy

Posted 5.31.11 | Christine Graham-Garo

It historically has been thought and widely accepted that 75% - 80% of children diagnosed with cow’s milk allergy (CMA) will outgrow the allergy by the age of 3-5 years old, respectively.1,2  More recent research is now showing that CMA is lasting longer into childhood than previously thought. 

To our surprise, research shows that 80% of kids with a CMA will outgrow their allergy by 16 years of age3.  This is a striking difference from the previous studies conducted in 1989-1990.  The new study, which was published in 2007, also contradicts data which suggested that if a child has not outgrown a CMA by their teenage years, then they are very unlikely to ever outgrow the allergy.  But, the study shows that there is no one age at which outgrowing CMA is impossible.

Overall the study found the percentage of tolerance to cow’s milk was:

19% by age 4 years

42% by age 8 years

64% by age 12 years

79% by age 16 years

Now this may be “good news/bad news” for some families.  Good news is that the chance of the CMA being outgrown is very good, even if the child has the allergy into their teenage years, they may still outgrow it.  Bad news is that most infants with CMA may have it into their early teenage years.

It’s important to note the diagnostic tools they used in the study to determine if the child was tolerant to the cows milk.  As you may know, allergy tests can be somewhat inaccurate (ie. false positives and false negatives).  The study conducted rigorous and thorough tests to ensure a proper definition of milk tolerance.

This study encourages doctors, dietitians, and families to plan ahead in managing food allergies as the child grows.  Since children on cow’s milk restricted diets are often found to be deficient in calcium and vitamin D (among other nutrients)4, families should speak to their doctors or dietitians about non-allergenic, age appropriate supplementation, such as Neocate Junior or E028 Splash to ensure nutrient needs are being achieved.

To read the full study, click here

What does this study mean to you?  Has your little one had a cow’s milk allergy for more than 3 years?  Share your story!




1. Sampson et al , J Ped 1989

2. Host et al. Allergy 1990

3. Skripack et al, J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007

4. Henriksen et al. Acta Paediatr, 2000.

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