Milk allergy and lactose intolerance may seem the same, but they are two very different things. In both cases it is necessary to avoid the intake of dairy foods but the symptoms and ways of treating them are different.
They are two different digestive problems and one is more serious than the other.
The key is to take a varied and healthy diet to replace milk protein.
One of the most striking facts in this area is that milk is one of the most common foods, after peanuts and nuts, that cause allergies and anaphylaxis.
Allergy to milk
Milk allergy is a reaction of the immune system to a protein that contains milk. It is a much more exaggerated reaction than lactose intolerance. When this protein is ingested, it can lead to rashes, hives, itching, swelling … as mild or other more severe symptoms such as shortness of breath or loss of consciousness.
Reactions to milk protein can be so severe that it can cause death. It is what is known as anaphylaxis. The most visible symptoms of a serious allergy are:
- Swelling of the face
- Decreased blood pressure
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening reaction that narrows the airways and blocks respiration. It is treated with an injection of adrenaline (epinephrine) to unblock the airways. So if you ever go to a case like this, it is very important to call a doctor right away to give you an injection of this type.
In the case of a milk allergy, your immune system identifies the harmful proteins in milk and triggers the production of antibodies to neutralize it. When it consumes that protein, the immune system recognizes it, releases histamine and other chemical elements, causing the allergic symptoms.
The symptoms differ between people, and may be mild or severe, as well as lasting a few minutes or even hours.
Developing this type of allergy is very common if someone in your family developed it or by age, because the digestive system matures and is less likely to react to milk. So children are the most likely to develop this allergic reaction.
Therefore, if you have children who have allergies to milk, it is very important that you pass it on to your doctor when recommending medications that may contain elements that cause a serious allergic reaction.
If you notice a severe or mild reaction to milk at home, go to your pediatrician as soon as possible to get tested for milk allergy, but above all, eliminate all dairy foods until your Doctor advise you otherwise.
In contrast, lactose intolerance does not involve the immune system, so it requires a different treatment than the allergic reaction to milk protein.
The most common symptoms of lactose intolerance are: diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, gas … always after consuming products with lactose.
Lactose intolerance is caused by not having enough lactase, which is necessary to break down lactose, the sugar found in milk and other dairy products.
This type of intolerance can be developed by genetics, or by a bacterial infection.
The effects of intolerance usually last between 30 minutes and 2 hours, after having eaten some food with lactose.
In case of intolerance, your doctor will advise you to remove lactose-rich foods from your diet to follow up and, if in doubt, will perform tests to detect the degree of intolerance.
Have a reaction to milk or a lactose intolerance, it is very important not to stop taking calcium. You can take soy or lactose-free milk if you are intolerant.
You should read nutritional labels very well if you have a milk allergy because the effects are more serious, but also if you suffer from intolerance, to avoid taking those foods.
Today there is more and more food on the market free of lactose, due to the increase in the population of intolerant people. In addition, it has increased its consumption among non-intolerant people, because of the benefits of these “lactose-free” products to make digestion much better.
Depending on the case, the most important thing is to visit the doctor or pediatrician as soon as possible, as well as the allergist or specialist in Pediatric Gastroenterology, depending on the severity of the case.
In the Digestive unit, in the Vithas Xanit Hospital in Benalmádena, our renowned specialists will attend you in any need with the latest technology and equipment.