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The lowdown on: milk allergy

The lowdown on: milk allergy

by FoodMaestro | 7 September 2015

Hannah Hunter (Specialist Allergy Dietitian, Guys Hospital) provides the lowdown on ‘milk allergy’.

Avoidance of dairy products seems to be increasingly common, either through choice or due to reactions to milk in food or drinks. There are many different types of products containing milk and the reactions to these can also be variable.  In this series of posts, we explain the difference between allergies and intolerances and why it is important to distinguish between the two, starting with milk.

What is milk allergy?

An allergy involves the immune system and is a reaction to the proteins in milk. There are two types of milk allergy. This first is related to production of IgE antibodies against milk and is known as “IgE mediated” cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA). This type of allergic reaction usually comes on quickly (within minutes to an hour) and symptoms may include itching, rash, swelling, nausea, vomiting and collapse. Severe reactions (known as anaphylaxis) can be life threatening and require injection with adrenaline. This type of allergy can be diagnosed by an allergy specialist using blood and skin tests.

The second type is known as “non-IgE mediated” CMPA. It used to be called cow’s milk protein intolerance but we now know that it involves the immune system and is a form of allergy. Symptoms typically affect the gut (e.g. stomach pain, diarrhoea) or skin (e.g. eczema) and although they are usually more delayed in onset, the reaction can still be severe and in rare cases life-threatening. It can only be diagnosed by removing and reintroducing the offending foods, under the guidance of a qualified health professional.

What should be avoided?

If you or your child have an allergy to cow’s milk foods containing animal milk proteins will need to be avoided. In some cases certain amounts or forms of dairy may be tolerated but your doctor or dietitian can advise you further if this is the case. Milks that are lactose free (e.g. Lactofree) or altered proteins (e.g. A2 milk) will not be suitable. Deciphering labels can be tricky but recent changes to food labelling laws mean that milk needs to be clearly labelled as an ingredient and emphasised (usually in bold or underlined). This is where FoodMaestro also comes in very useful. Set up your personal food profile to avoid either all forms of milk including those that may contain milk or simply exclude foods with milk as an ingredient: 

Milk allergy



Where can I get more information?

If you suspect that you or your child has milk allergy, then speak to your GP, Dietitian or hospital Consultant for individual advice.

Other useful websites:


Also see:

The lowdown on: Lactose Intolerance

The lowdown on: Egg Allergy