A friend told me she went to an office Halloween party as a peanut allergy. I wondered: What would you wear that says, “I am an allergy?” I still don’t know the answer to that question! Thinking about that made me wonder: Since babies don’t come with labels and can’t tell us what they experience, how do they tell us “I have an allergy?”
More and more, children are diagnosed with food allergies, with cow’s milk allergy being the most common. In fact, more than 100,000 babies each year suffer from milk allergy. There are multiple clues pediatricians look for that help diagnose a cow’s milk allergy that you can look for too. Below is a list of eight questions to help parents of infants identify a potential milk allergy, designed by Dr. John Moissidis, a Board certified pediatric allergist at The Asthma Allergy Clinic in Shreveport, La.
Milk Allergy Symptoms
- Diarrhea Diarrhea is common in babies, but if it is persistent (an average of two to four times a day for more than five to seven days) and/or if there is blood or mucous in the stool, it could signal a more serious milk allergy.
- Vomiting Babies often spit up bits of food, but vomiting beyond the typical mealtime regurgitation should be examined by a doctor. Reflux symptoms, such as spit-up and difficulty swallowing, can also be milk allergy symptoms.
- Skin Rash There are many causes for infant skin rashes like eczema. Milk allergy is one possible cause, especially if the rash occurs along with some of these other symptoms.
- Extreme Fussiness Every baby cries, but crying continuously and inconsolably for long periods of time is abnormal. When there is no apparent reason, this is usually called colic. Sometimes this extreme fussiness is actually caused by the gastrointestinal pain resulting from an allergy to the proteins found in milk.
- Low or No Weight Gain Most infants double their weight by six months and triple it by 12 months. But when babies are not getting the nutrition they need because of excessive diarrhea and vomiting, they are unable to grow like they should.
- Gassiness All babies have gas, but when it occurs along with several of these other symptoms, it can also signal an allergy to milk proteins.
- Respiratory Problems Colds are common for infants, but wheezing, struggling to breathe and developing excess mucus in the nose and throat is not. For some kids, these respiratory problems can be the baby’s reaction to the protein found in milk.
- Failure to Thrive Babies with milk allergy often suffer from a lack of proper nutrition characterized by dehydration, loss of appetite and lack of energy. This overall failure to thrive is often the result of the effect the other symptoms have on the infant’s body.
My baby has one or more of these symptoms – what now?
Babies with an allergy to cow’s milk protein cannot process the complex proteins found in milk-based baby formula, and many babies also react to soy-based infant formulas. Because of this, infant milk allergy is treated by either eliminating the milk proteins from the nursing mother’s diet or by replacing the regular formula with an amino acid-based formula.
An amino acid-based formula is safe for babies with milk and soy allergies because it is made using amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Amino acids are small enough that they won’t cause an allergic reaction in the way that complete protein chains or partly broken down proteins found in other formulas will.
The next step should be to schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician in order to receive a more thorough evaluation and diagnosis. Bring this information with you and ask your doctor if your baby might benefit from an amino acid-based formula.
What symptoms did your baby have that led you to suspect a milk allergy?
– Rob McCandlish, RDN