Milk allergy symptoms, which differ from person to person, occur a few minutes to a few hours after drinking milk or eating milk products.

Immediately after consuming milk, signs and symptoms of a milk allergy might include:

  • Hives
  • Wheezing
  • Vomiting

Signs and symptoms that may take more time to develop include:

  • Loose stools, which may contain blood
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy skin rash, often around the mouth
  • Colic, in babies

Milk allergy or milk intolerance?

It's important to differentiate a true milk allergy from milk protein intolerance or lactose intolerance. Unlike a milk allergy, intolerance doesn't involve the immune system. Milk intolerance causes different symptoms and requires different treatment from a true milk allergy. Common signs and symptoms of milk protein or lactose intolerance include digestive problems, such as bloating, gas or diarrhea, after consuming milk or products containing milk.

Anaphylaxis

Rarely, milk allergy can cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction that can narrow the airways and block breathing. If you or your child has a reaction to milk, tell your doctor about it no matter how mild the reaction was. Tests can help confirm a milk allergy, so you can take steps to avoid future and potentially worse reactions. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and requires treatment with an epinephrine (adrenaline) shot and a trip to the emergency room. Signs and symptoms start soon after consuming milk and can include:

  • Constriction of airways, including a swollen throat that makes it difficult to breathe
  • Facial flushing
  • Itching
  • Shock, with a marked drop in blood pressure

When to see doctor

See a doctor or allergist if you or your child experiences milk allergy symptoms shortly after consuming milk. If possible, see your doctor when the allergic reaction is occurring. This will help the doctor make a diagnosis. Seek emergency treatment if you or your child develops any signs or symptoms of anaphylaxis.

Aug. 11, 2011

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