Milk Allergy - Symptoms And Causes

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Milk Allergy - Symptoms And Causes
Milk Allergy - Symptoms And Causes

Video: Milk Allergy - Symptoms And Causes

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Video: Food Allergy 101: Manage Milk Allergies | Milk Allergy Symptom 2023, January

Milk allergy

The allergy to milk must be differentiated from lactose intolerance: In the case of intolerance, the symptoms are caused by a certain type of sugar (milk sugar, lactose), whereas in the case of allergies, certain proteins in the milk are caused. The milk allergy is an allergy in the classic sense, ie the immune system fights a substance that is actually harmless to the body and allergic symptoms arise.


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  • more on the subject
  • Advice, downloads & tools
  • What are the symptoms of a milk allergy?
  • Milk allergens in food
  • How is a milk allergy treated?
  • Procedure in an emergency
  • Infants and milk allergy

What are the symptoms of a milk allergy?

If you are allergic to milk, you overreact to certain protein fractions in milk (casein or whey protein). The symptoms can appear immediately after consuming milk or after a delay. They can be seen on the lips, mouth, throat, nose and lower airways, skin and eyes. The gastrointestinal tract, lungs, and cardiovascular system can also be affected. Common reactions include:

  • Tingling in the mouth, clammy feeling,
  • Itching and swelling on the mucous membranes along the "swallowing route" (from the lips to the anus) and on the skin (hives, delays the blooming of eczema),
  • sudden breathlessness (allergic asthma),
  • allergic shock.

For more information on allergic reactions, see What is an allergy?

Milk allergens in food

Milk protein can be divided into so-called milk protein fractions: heat-stable casein and heat-sensitive whey protein. Most milk allergy sufferers are allergic to both protein fractions in milk. Milk allergies in infancy or childhood in most cases regress by the time they start school.

Milk protein can be found in many foods that are not obviously related to milk - so pay attention to the labeling of the ingredients on food labels.

Milk protein can hide in the following foods:

  • Milk bread, cakes and tarts,
  • Baking mixes,
  • Breadcrumbs,
  • Ice,
  • Mashed potatoes or powder,
  • Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise as well
  • Prepared meals and sauces.

Allergen labeling

According to the EU Consumer Information Regulation, milk and the products made from it (including lactose) must be labeled and highlighted in the list of ingredients, for example by means of font or background color. This extended labeling requirement has been mandatory for packaged and unpackaged goods (open, loose goods) since December 2014.

Further information is available from:

  • Ingredients in foods that are subject to labeling
  • EU rules on food labeling
  • Brochure of the Chamber of Labor "Food Labeling"


Since milk and dairy products supply the body with calcium, a milk allergy should be given a sufficient supply of calcium. Calcium is also found in vegetables such as kale, broccoli, fennel, leek or spinach as well as in various mineral waters. If the calcium supply is not sufficient, a dietary supplement can be useful.

See Calcium for more information.

Vitamin A and Vitamin D

Milk also contributes, among other things, to covering the need for vitamin A and vitamin D, both of which are contained in milk fat and protect against allergies and other diseases. Low-fat dairy products contain fewer vitamins A and D. In the case of a milk allergy, care must be taken to ensure adequate intake of vitamins A and D, which are responsible for bone formation and healthy skin and mucous membranes, blood formation and eyesight as well as the immune system. Your general practitioner will advise you on this.

For more information, see Vitamin A and Vitamin D.


Milk and dairy products contain a lot of protein. In the case of a milk allergy, the protein requirement should be covered by other protein sources, e.g. lean meat, fish and eggs, but also plant-based foods such as legumes, potatoes and bread.

In order to prevent malnutrition and malnutrition through unfounded milk avoidance, a precise diagnosis of the real milk allergy is important, for example with an allergy specialist or in an allergy clinic. This also applies to children, as they are more likely to have milk allergies.

How is a milk allergy treated?

The triggers of the allergy should be avoided. Usually there is an allergic reaction to both protein fractions in milk - casein and whey protein, which are usually found together in products.

Fat content increases tolerance

In the case of a milk allergy to casein, milk and products made from it of ALL animal species must be avoided: This refers to cow, sheep, goat and mare's milk. The casein is heat-stable and therefore cannot be rendered harmless by heating. The more fat a dairy product is, the less protein it contains: cream and butter therefore have a lower protein content and are relatively well tolerated by some casein allergy sufferers. Rice or soy milk can be used as a substitute for milk of animal origin, provided there is no allergy to it.

Tip Whipped cream diluted with water can be a compatible alternative for casein protein allergies.

In the case of a milk allergy to whey protein, only cow's milk and products made from it must be avoided, while milk from donkeys, goats, sheep, etc. can be more compatible alternatives. Whey protein is sensitive to heat. The allergenic effect can therefore be reduced by heat treatments. With a moderate allergy, products such as high-fat cheese, curd cheese or ultra-high temperature milk (UHT milk) are therefore tolerated.

Note Soy is only recommended to a limited extent as an alternative, as around a quarter of all those affected also have an allergic reaction to it. There is also a botanical relationship to peanut with a risk of possible cross-reactions.

A balanced diet is also possible if you are allergic to milk. The Austrian food pyramid should serve as the basis of nutrition. Qualified nutritional advice is helpful.

For more information, see Nutritional Advice and Therapy.

Note For general information, see Food Allergies: Prevention, Diagnosis & Therapy.

Procedure in an emergency

If complaints occur, they are treated symptomatically. If they are known to have a severe allergy, they should be equipped with an emergency kit that must always be carried with them. This should include:

  • Adrenaline auto-injector for self-therapy (= first line!),
  • Antihistamine,
  • Cortisone preparation,
  • Asthma spray.

Relatives of a food allergy sufferer should be trained in the use of rescue medication. Particular caution applies if allergic shock reactions have already occurred.

Infants and milk allergy

About 2.5 percent of all infants suffer from a milk allergy. For them, with the advice of the pediatrician, a milk elimination diet must be switched to hydrolyzed milk preparations or amino acid formulas. The milk of other mammals or soy milk, for example, is unsuitable.

You can find more information under infant nutrition and on the website “Eat right from the start!”, A cooperation project between the Ministry of Health, AGES and the umbrella organization for Austrian social insurance.

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