How to Minimize Children’s Dairy Allergies

Finally there may be promising news for children suffering from milk allergies.  The latest findings suggest that for some children the best way to overcome a milk allergy is to consume more milk.  This advice contradicts current recommendations, which recommends lactose intolerant children avoid milk products entirely.

In a recent study, scientists discovered that by eating baked milk products, such as muffins or waffles, the children built a tolerance to milk more quickly than those who avoided milk products completely.  Authors proposed that two types of milk allergies affect children; one that is mild and temporary, and another that is more severe and persistent.  Tolerance to baked goods containing milk may offer clues as to the severity of the milk allergy.

During the study, a group of children known to be allergic to milk were asked to consume a muffin or waffle containing baked milk.  Based on antibody responses, scientists then classified the children as either “baked milk-reactive” or “baked milk-tolerant.” The children who tolerated baked milk were then asked to consume a muffin, waffle or cheese pizza daily for at least six months.  Those children who reacted to the baked milk were advised to avoid all milk products entirely and a third group of children, confirmed to have milk allergies, served as controls.

Over the next six months to five years, each group was offered a glass of skim milk before antibody reactions were measured.  Surprisingly, 60 percent of the children who were eating daily baked milk showed no reaction to the unheated skim milk.   Even more interesting was that those children who regularly ate foods containing baked milk built a tolerance to unheated milk more quickly than those who avoided all forms of milk.

An estimated 2 to 5 percent of children suffer from a milk allergies although most outgrow the allergy by age 6.  Symptoms often appear within the first few months of life and may include wheezing, vomiting, hives and digestive problems.  Allergy to milk is caused by an immune system response to the milk proteins that trigger production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies.  The principle behind the baked milk products is that the heat required for baking denatures the proteins, minimizing the allergic reaction.

Although there is no cure, there are ways to lower your child’s risk of developing milk allergies:

  • Breastfeeding for at least the first six months of life has been associated with a reduced rate of developing a milk allergy.
  • Selecting hypoallergenic formulas such as hydrolyzed or elemental products are less likely to cause a reaction.
  • Soy-based formulas are also available for children who can tolerate soy.
  • Delaying the introduction of solid foods until six months of age.
  • Waiting to introduce dairy until your child’s first birthday.

Although larger studies are needed, the latest findings are encouraging for the many children who have been following current guidelines of eliminating milk products from their diet.  Not only is such a diet difficult to follow but it may also lead to deficiencies in nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D and riboflavin.

Interestingly, a recent small study found that children allergic to milk tolerated camel milk instead.

If your child is allergic to milk, be sure to consult a pediatrician or dietitian before making any changes to your child’s diet.

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