When food is the cause of an allergic reaction, it isn't always easy to pinpoint what food is to blame. To evaluate whether you or your child has a milk allergy, your doctor may:
- Ask detailed questions about signs and symptoms
- Perform a physical exam
- Have you keep a detailed diary of the foods you or your child eats
- Have you eliminate milk from your diet or your child's diet (elimination diet) — and then have you add back the food to see if it causes a reaction
He or she may also recommend one or both of the following tests:
- Skin test. In this test, your skin is pricked and exposed to small amounts of the proteins found in milk. If you're allergic, you develop a raised bump (hive) at the test location on your skin. Allergy specialists usually are best equipped to perform and interpret allergy skin tests. Be aware that this type of test isn't always accurate for detecting a milk allergy.
- Blood test. A blood test can measure your immune system's response to milk by measuring the amount of certain antibodies in your bloodstream, known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. A blood sample is sent to a medical laboratory, where it can be tested for evidence of sensitivity to milk. However, this test isn't always accurate in correctly identifying a milk allergy.
If your examination and test results can't confirm a milk allergy, your doctor might administer an oral challenge, in which you are fed different foods that may or may not contain milk in increasing amounts to see if you react to the ones that contain milk.
If your doctor suspects your symptoms are caused by something other than a food allergy, you may need other tests to identify — or rule out — other medical problems.
Aug. 11, 2011
- Atopic and allergic disorders. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec13/ch165/ch165c.html?qt=milk allergy&alt=sh. Accessed June 5, 2011.
- Food allergy: An overview. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/foodallergy/documents/foodallergy.pdf. Accessed June 5, 2011.
- Sicherer SH. Food allergens: Overview of clinical features and crossreactivity. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed June 2, 2011.
- Tips to remember: Food allergy. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. http://www.aaaai.org/patients/publicedmat/tips/foodallergy.stm. Accessed June 5, 2011.
- Schneider Chafen JJ, et al. Diagnosing and managing common food allergies: A systematic review. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2010;303:1848.
- Du Toit G, et al. Identifying and managing cow's milk protein allergy. Archives of Disease in Childhood: Education and Practice Edition. 2010:95:134.
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