Allergies or allergic diseases of any sort make up some of the most common chronic health condition in the world. It is unfortunate but people with a family history of allergies are more prone to developing an allergy and adults aren’t immune from first-time allergies. One of the most common allergies that babies suffer from is cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA). It is also known as cow’s milk allergy (CMA) or cow’s milk protein intolerance (CMPI). Babies who suffer from CMPA often have a tired time, as most of the symptoms of the allergic reaction are similar to their everyday reactions like crying and being fidgety.
Cow’s milk protein allergy can be described as an abnormal response or reaction by the body’s immune system to a protein found in cow’s milk. Our immune system protects our bodies from harmful bacteria and viruses. In the case of CMPA, the immune system reacts differently to the protein found in cow’s milk. This reaction can cause infection and injuries in the stomach and intestines. It is important to note that cow’s milk protein intolerance is not the same as lactose.
There are basically two types of CMPA :
a) IgE-mediated (Immediate reaction)
The symptoms usually start within two hours of drinking cow’s milk.
b) Non-IgE-mediated (Late reaction)
The symptoms usually show up later than 48 hours and sometimes even after one week of drinking cow’s milk.
Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is an antibody in humans that causes the symptoms of allergies like rashes, wheezing and runny nose etc.
Also read: Can blankets cause allergies?
The signs and symptoms of cow’s milk protein vary from baby to baby and are quite diverse. As mentioned above, the signs sometimes don’t show up for even a week. However, the most common symptoms include:
If you see symptoms such as extreme lethargy and exhaustion, excessive vomiting, severe diarrhea and drastic weight loss, please consult a doctor immediately.
As CMPA is not very easy allergy to diagnose, parents need to be fully prepared as to what to say to the doctor. Keep a track of the symptoms exhibited by your baby. If there is a history of allergies in the family, it is important for the doctor to know this. For IgE-mediated reactions you can opt for skin prick tests, stool tests or specific IgE antibody blood tests.
For non-IgE-mediated CMPA, the doctor will have to do a detailed investigation for a longer duration. The doctor will compare the child’s health before and after excluding milk from the child’s diet. If the symptoms disappear with the elimination of milk and reappear when milk is consumed, one can surmise that perhaps it is CMPA. There are other tests and investigations that a doctor may conduct which will be tailor-made for a particular child. Hence, it may differ from baby to baby.
The simplest cure is to eliminate cow’s milk completely from the infant diet. However, these elimination diets are usually begin with hydrolyzed formulas. The formulas are generally made of proteins that are broken down. They are easily digestible and don’t cause an immune reaction. The success rate of these hydrolyzed formulas are quite high. However, if these formulas don’t work, it is necessary to use amino-acid based formulas which contain individual building blocks of proteins.
Mothers of breastfeeding babies need to cut on all dairy and soy products from their diet. They should consult their general practitioner to find out what other alternatives she can choose. Avoid feeding goat’s milk, sheep’s milk or soy milk to your baby. Babies who have CMPA will most probably also have similar allergic reactions to the aforementioned milks.
The only way you can find out if your child has cow’s milk protein allergy is if he drinks milk. If you see signs of the allergy but want him to continue drinking milk, please consult a doctor to explore your options. According to the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition (NASPGHAN), cow’s milk protein allergy resolves in 90% of children by the age of six. 50% of infants will have tolerance when they turn one and more than 75% will have resolved the allergy by the time they are three years of age.
Also read: Common Food Allergies In Children
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