What Are the Chances of Your Child Outgrowing a Milk Allergy?
In many cases, children who are allergic to milk outgrow their allergies at some point in their lives. If you are a parent whose child has a milk allergy, you may want to know whether your little one will outgrow it, and whether you could help.
At What Age Do Most Children Outgrow an Allergy to Milk?
Dairy milk is one of the most common foods triggering allergies in young children. Statistics shows that about three percent of kids in the Unites States are affected by a milk allergy
The good news is that in up to 80 percent of cases, milk allergy in kids can be outgrown. Some of the previous studies suggest that most children outgrow their allergy by 3 to 5 years of age.
Yet, other 20 percent of kids with dairy allergy will likely be allergic at least until their teenage years, while some of them won’t outgrow their allergy at all. According to recent research, the number of children with permanent milk allergy is increasing.
Allergic and Non-Allergic Reactions to Milk
There are two types of reactions that can occur after exposure to milk products: allergic and non-allergic.
True milk allergy can only be diagnosed when an allergy test to milk shows a positive result. An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system mistakes a milk protein for a harmful substance and releases antibodies (IgE) leading to allergy symptoms.
Non-allergic reactions caused by milk don’t involve the immune system. There are two major types of non-allergic sensitivity to milk, such as FPIES (Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome) and lactose intolerance. While FPIES usually develops in infants and is likely to be outgrown by 3 years of age, lactose intolerance is more common in older children and adults and is rarely outgrown with time. Worth mentioning that lactose intolerance is not a food allergy, but a food intolerance.
How to Diagnose a True Allergy to Milk?
If you think that you or your child developed an allergy to milk, it is important that you see an allergist-immunologist. There are various methods that help to diagnose a milk allergy, such as assessment of medical history, physical examination, as well as allergy testing that includes skin prick tests, a blood test (IgE measurement), a food challenge and an elimination diet.
The most accurate type of allergy test is a challenge test including an elimination diet first and then a food challenge that involves drinking milk. However, if your child has a history of milk-induced anaphylaxis, this method of diagnostics is not an option.
When Is True Milk Allergy Normally Outgrown?
Although previous studies suggested that an allergy to milk is most likely to be outgrown early in the childhood, recent studies have shown that outgrowing this allergic disorder is actually not that common.
According to a study published in 2007, 79 percent of children with milk allergy tend to outgrow it by 16 years of age, 64 percent – by age 12, 42 percent – by age 8, and only 19 percent of children outgrow their allergy by age 4.
How Likely Is Your Child to Outgrow a Milk Allergy?
Some children are more likely to outgrow their food allergy than others. This partly depends on other allergies that affect a child.
Based on research studies, having other food allergy, hay fever (allergic rhinitis) or asthma may reduce the likelihood of outgrowing an allergy to cow’s milk. Besides, if you gave your child a baby formula during infancy, the chances of outgrowing milk allergy are also lower.
Studying the reaction that a child develops after an oral food challenge is considered to be the most accurate way to diagnose an allergy to milk protein. And while some children do outgrow their allergy, others may live with this disorder forever.
To predict outgrowing milk allergy, researches measured the amount of allergic antibody to milk in the blood, using a radioallergosorbent test (RAST). This test is considered very useful by many allergy specialists, as it helps to determine when approximately a child may outgrow an allergy or when he can safely undergo an oral food challenge. Another way to predict a child’s readiness to undergo a food challenge is to perform an end point prick test.
How to Manage the Symptoms of Milk Allergy?
Any kind of sensitivity to dairy, whether it’s allergic or non-allergic, may cause some level of discomfort, as milk and other dairy products (e.g. cheese, cream, butter, etc.) are often contained in many processed packaged foods. If you or your child is allergic to milk, the best way to avoid the allergen is cook your food at home.
Since there is still no cure for food allergies, avoidance is the only effective method to control the allergy symptoms. However, researchers are currently studying immunotherapy as a potential future treatment for milk allergy.
If you (or your child) are also affected by other food allergies, you may be interested in finding substitutes for common food allergens. In addition, you may want to learn about various myths concerning food allergies, in order to manage your allergies better.