Like all allergies, a milk allergy stems from an immune system malfunction. While most people drink milk and milk-containing products without cause for alarm, milk is perceived as a harmful substance in allergic individuals' bodies. Milk allergy symptoms vary between individuals and range in severity. If you suspect that you or a loved one has a milk allergy, seek guidance from your doctor or a qualified allergy specialist for best results.Hives, Wheezing or Vomiting
Hives (a red, itchy skin rash), wheezing (difficulty breathing) or vomiting may occur in response to a milk allergy. According to the Mayo Clinic, these symptoms tend to occur immediately following the ingestion of milk or a milk-containing product. If your symptoms are milder and include gas, bloating or upset stomach, you might be lactose intolerant (unable to properly digest lactose -- a naturally occurring sugar found in milk). The Mayo Clinic suggests that differentiating between lactose intolerance and a milk allergy remains key, as allergies tend to become more severe and carry risk of serious complications. If your symptoms of wheezing or vomiting become severe, seek medical attention promptly.Runny Nose or Water Eyes
Symptoms such as runny nose and watery eyes may occur in response to a milk allergy. These symptoms generally take several hours to develop. Treatment for a milk allergy generally involves complete avoidance of milk and all dairy-containing products. According to Creighton University Medical Center, some foods and beverages containing milk are obvious, such as milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream, while others are harder to detect. If you or your child has a milk allergy, keep a list of all milk-containing ingredients and products in your kitchen, car, wallet or purse to help ensure that such products are avoided. If you do consume milk unintentionally, medications can reduce or treat negative reactions. Seek medical attention in such cases to reduce, alleviate or prevent additional symptoms.Diarrhea and Cramping
Additional symptoms of milk allergies that may occur within several hours of ingesting milk include diarrhea and abdominal cramping. Since your body essentially rejects the allergen, diarrhea (loose, watery stools) proves one way it rids itself of it. Abdominal cramping can occur and exacerbate symptoms of diarrhea.
If your reaction to milk becomes severe, particularly if your breathing is challenged, seek immediate medical attention. Life threatening reactions, though rare, can occur as a result of a milk allergy. For proper testing, the Mayo Clinic suggests seeking medical care while you experience a reaction of any kind, if possible, as allergies become easier to detect during a reaction.
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About this Author
August J. McLaughlin is a certified nutritionist and health writer with more than nine years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as "Healthy Aging," "CitySmart," "IAmThatGirl" and "ULM." She holds specializations in eating disorders, healthy weight management and sports nutrition. She is currently completing her second cookbook and Weight Limit - a series of body image/nutrition-related PSAs.