Got Milk…Allergy?

Milk allergy is one of the most common food allergies in children. Although cow’s milk is the usual cause of milk allergy, milk from sheep, goats and buffalo also can cause a reaction. Approximately 2.5% of children under 3 years old suffer from milk allergies. Almost all infants who develop milk allergies do so in their first year.  The good news is many children who suffer from a milk allergy will outgrow it in the first few years.

There are two types of protein in cow’s milk that can cause an allergic reaction:

  • Casein, which is found in the solid part (curd) of milk that curdles
  • Whey, which is found in the liquid part of milk that remains after milk curdles

You or your child may be allergic to only one milk protein or allergic to both casein and whey. These proteins are not only present in milk — but also are found in processed foods.

For example:

  • Deli meat slicers are frequently used for both meat and dairy products.
  • Some brands of canned tuna contain casein which is a milk protein.
  • Some meats may contain casein as a binder.
  • Some restaurants put butter on their steaks after they have been grilled to add extra flavor. The butter is melted and is therefore invisible.

Avoidance is the primary treatment for milk allergy.

Always check the label ingredients before you use a product. In addition, check the label each time you buy the product. Manufacturers occasionally change recipes, and a trigger food may be added to the new recipe. Here are some examples of milk products and foods that may contain milk along with a list of milk substitutes. Thankfully, milk is one of the easiest ingredients to substitute in baking and cooking. It can be substituted, in equal amounts, with water or fruit juice.

Milk/Dairy Products Milk/Dairy-Containing Ingredients Milk/Dairy-Containing Foods Milk/Dairy Substitutes
Milk and milk solids

Non-fat, skim milk, or powdered milk


Evaporated milk


Cream, cream cheese, sour cream

Cheese, cheese powder, or cheese sauce

Butter, butter fat, artificial butter flavor


Whey and whey products

Cottage cheese


Lactalbumin phosphate



Sodium caseinate


Au gratin foods

Cake and cake mix

Chocolate and cream candy


Coffee creamers

Creamed or scalloped foods

Mashed potatoes



Ice cream and sherbet

Malted milk

Margarines (some, check the label)


White sauces

Salad dressings

*Soy milk

Rice milk

Almond milk

Non-dairy ice cream

Non-dairy chocolate

Non-dairy cheese

Non-dairy yogurt

Kosher foods labeled “parve” or “pareve.”

Milk allergy usually occurs a few minutes to a few hours after you consume milk. Signs and symptoms of milk allergy range from mild to severe and can include wheezing, vomiting, hives and digestive problems. Rarely, milk allergy can cause anaphylaxis — a severe, life-threatening reaction.

It’s important to differentiate a true milk allergy from milk protein intolerance or lactose intolerance. Unlike a milk allergy, intolerance doesn’t involve the immune system. Milk intolerance causes different symptoms and requires different treatment than does a true milk allergy. Common signs and symptoms of milk protein or lactose intolerance include digestive problems, such as bloating, gas or diarrhea, after consuming milk or products containing milk.

See a doctor or allergist if you experience milk allergy symptoms shortly after consuming milk. If possible, see your doctor when the allergic reaction is occurring. This will help the doctor make a diagnosis. Seek emergency treatment if you develop any signs or symptoms of anaphylaxis.


This entry was posted in Food Allergies and tagged , , , , , on by .

About Kari Larson

Hi, I'm Kari Larson, social media consultant & blogger for ImmuneTech. Personally, I have suffered with allergies & sensitivities for years. Professionally, my background is 15 years in heathcare management & life-style technology product development. I've also been a contributing author to a variety of dermatology trade journals. Now working in this capacity with ImmuneTech is exciting for me as it is combines my professional career with a topic of personal interest. My goal is to share news, tips, resources, & commentary on topics relating to managing & living with allergies.

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