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Signs and symptoms of cow milk sensitivity

Tummy troubles, rashes and chronic congestion can all be caused by cow milk sensitivity. Here’s how to spot it, and how this common problem differs from cow milk allergy.

Signs and symptoms of cms

By Dr. Annie Salsberg, N.D.

The terms cow milk protein allergy, lactose intolerance and cow milk sensitivity are often used interchangeably (and incorrectly), though the prevalence and intensity of symptoms associated with each condition may be different.

Confirmed cow milk protein allergy (CMPA) – affects 2-3% of children under 1 year. Lactose Intolerance is uncommon across all populations under 2-3 years of age. The prevalence of cow milk sensitivity is less defined in research, however clinical and parental observation suggest that many children may have at least one symptom related to cow milk consumption.

What is a Cow Milk Protein Allergy?

A confirmed cow milk protein allergy (CMPA) can be a serious health problem. Children with ‘obvious’ CMPA will have an immediate reaction to cow milk that happens within hours of ingestion; for others, symptoms can be delayed. Symptoms will most commonly be moderate to severe in intensity and may include:

  • Swelling around the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Vomiting and regurgitation
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in the stool
  • Food refusal
  • Failure to thrive
  • Colic
  • Severe eczema and/or rashes or hives
  • In rare cases, anaphylactic shock

What is Cow Milk Sensitivity?

Cow milk sensitivity may encompass the delayed, mild to moderate symptoms associated with consumption of cow milk.

Digestive symptoms may include:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Abdominal pain
  • Colic
  • Loose stools
  • Constipation

Symptoms in the lungs and skin may include:

  • Non-illness related chronic runny nose
  • Non-illness related chronic cough
  • Non-illness related chronic congestion
  • Recurring ear infection
  • Eczema
  • Rashes

How do I know the difference?

It can be difficult to tell the difference between allergy and sensitivity because symptoms may be similar. Many healthcare providers rely on the intensity of symptoms, serum (blood) IgE testing and skin prick testing to guide their diagnosis. The gold standard diagnostic method for cow milk protein allergy is the ‘Oral Challenge Test’ involving the complete avoidance of cow milk, followed by a medically supervised reintroduction and monitoring of symptoms.

KABRITA goat milk formula is not suitable for children with a cow milk protein allergy as they might also react to the protein in goat milk. Goat milk may be a solution for children with cow milk sensitivity.

Since every child is different, we recommend speaking with your healthcare provider if you are concerned about whether your little one’s symptoms stem from allergy or sensitivity.

Dr. Annie Salsberg is a board-certified naturopathic physician and Senior Manager Medical Engagement and Education at KABRITA USA. 

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  1. I may possibly have IBS and maybe should avoid dairy. I love milk and goat milk especially. I do not drink more than 12oz. A day. The past 10 years I have been trying to find out what causes intermittent diarhea . Should goatmilk be a problem?

    1. Hi Connie, thank you for your question. Your Healthcare provider would be the best person to guide you on whether he/she thinks goat milk could be suitable in your situation. Goat Milk is naturally easy to digest, however in cases of an allergy to dairy protein, Goat Milk would not be suitable. We wish you well!

  2. Would goatmilk be a problem with IBS WHICH I AM DEALING WITH THEST PAST YEARS.??it has been suggested that I avoid dairy, which I love

    1. Hi Connie, if your healthcare provider has suggested you avoid dairy perhaps you should try it to see if you notice any improvement in your symptoms. Wishing you the best!

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