Understanding cow’s milk-related symptoms: Cow Milk Sensitivity, Lactose Intolerance & Cow Milk Protein Allergy.
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. It’s often an immediate reaction that happens within hours of ingestion and often results in moderate to severe symptoms.
These symptoms may include:
- Swelling around the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Vomiting and regurgitation
- Blood in the stool
- Food refusal
- Failure to thrive
- Severe eczema and/or rashes or hives
- In rare cases, anaphylactic shock leading to death
What is Cow Milk Sensitivity?
Cow milk sensitivity may encompass the delayed, mild to moderate symptoms associated with cow milk consumption. Symptoms may affect the gut, lungs, ears, nose and throat, skin, and even possibly behaviour.
Symptoms that may be associated with cow milk sensitivity:
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.
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.
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