How do you know if your child is allergic to milk products?
Are you a disheartened parent, looking for answers on why your child always has a runny nose, coughing constantly, mucus in the airways and lungs and a weak immune system.
After visiting the doctor, your child is diagnosed with a cold or flu, antibiotics are prescribed. After the 5 day antibiotic course, within 10 days your child is sick again.
I know exactly how you feel, because I was one of those mothers, until I discovered the actual reason for my children’s constant flu condition.
Your child, just as mine, might be allergic to milk products.
In order to understand an allergy, let’s start from the beginning.
What is an allergy?
Allergy is the sensitivity to a substance that normally does not cause any discomfort to people. Hay fever for example is triggered due to the sensitivity for pollen. Asthma, eczema or rashes can again be triggered due to an entirely different allergy.
An allergy can affect any part of a person’s body, depending on the type of allergic reaction a person has.
Allergies are mainly a reaction to allergens, those substances for example pollen or the lactose in milk products. These allergens start the symptom of the allergy that a person is sensitive to.
An allergy can be anything,
- A runny nose
- Mucus in the airways and lungs
- Itchy eyes
- Skin rash
It can affect your child’s sense of smell, sight, tastes and touch that causes irritation. This affect on the body occurs when the immune system overreacts to the normally harmless substances.
What causes an allergy?
Allergies tend to be inherited characteristics in the cells which are made up by the immune system. The immune system is the body’s defence system against diseases.
Allergies are caused due to an error in the immune system. White blood cells are a very important element in the immune system. The work of these cells is to be on the look-out for any strange substances for example viruses, proteins and bacteria that is different to the body’s own proteins. Whenever these white blood cells come across a strange protein, it forms antibodies, which in turn combines with the strange substance and neutralizes it.
In some strange way, the immune system of a normal healthy child has the ability to distinguish the difference between a strange substance (example a virus) and a harmless substance (example food protein).
Strangely so the immune system of a child that has an allergy, reacts to this harmless protein as if it was a threat, and therefore starts forming an antibody. This antibody therefore attacks itself to cells called mast cells. These mast cells are very important due to the fact that it contains chemicals, the most important one is histamine.
After the child’s body gets exposed to the protein again, the antibody attached to the mast cell combines with the strange protein trying to neutralise it. By doing this it upsets the structure of the mast cell. This mast cell then falls apart releasing a lot of histamine. The effect of the histamine is an inflammation, which dilates the walls of the blood vessels, which them leaks.
A child that has a milk allergy for example, the mucus glands in the nose and sinuses are stimulated by this leaking fluid cells in the blood, which in return produces fluid, which causes stuffiness, a runny nose and coughing.
How can you find out if your child is allergic to milk products?
An allergy, especially a milk allergy, normally means an allergy to the lactose in the milk. This allergy will occur from a very young age. If you have a milk allergy history with your children you will learn what symptoms to look for.
Symptoms when drinking or eating milk products:
- Diarrhoea, constipation, nausea
- Constant runny nose
- Mucus in airways and lungs
- Watery eyes
- Constant coughing due to asthma or mucus in sinuses
- Skin conditions like hives, eczema and swelling of tissue
Always remember a lot of babies who are allergic to milk products will also react in the same way when given soy-based products.
The following tests can be done to establish an allergy.
The Skin prick test:
During this test a small needle is used to prick the skin through a drop of fluid having the known allergen. This test is usually done on the forearm and is not painful to the chid. Results of the test are immediately available.
The Blood test:
During this test a sample is taken of the child’s blood. This blood sample is then send to a laboratory. They will do a RAST(Radio Allergo Sorbent test) or a CAP-RAST. This test measures the amount of Immunoglobulin E antibodies(IgE) in the child’s blood to different types of allergens. His allergens can be food or environmentally related. The IgE is graded on a scale of 0-6 depending on the level of that IgE in the child’s blood.
This test is normally done to establish delayed allergic reactions for example Contact Dermatitis. The test involves taping traces of different known allergens on the skin underneath aluminium discs. This discs are kept on for 48 hours, whereafter a dermatologist assesses it for any allergic eczematous changes.
Allergy to rubber, cosmetics, preservatives, medication and nickel can be tested.
How to teach your child and others involved with your child about his/her allergy!
Most children have an allergy from a very young age. This makes it much easier to teach your child the pro’s and cons of his/her allergy and what to eat and what not.
Here are a few suggestions:
- You must teach your child about his/her allergy. He/she must be taught from a very young age, the younger the better, about what he/she is allergic to, foods to eat and not and very importantly what the wrong foods will do to them.
- All foods must have food labels. Teach your child to read those labels especially when it comes to cookies, sweets and drinks. A simple drink might contain milk solids which will be harmful to your child.
- Teach your child that he/she can still eat delicious foods without containing milk solids. You get cakes and pudding recipes made without milk.
- Teach your child to teach others especially if your child goes to a crèche during the day or an after school in the afternoons. Your child must be so educated that he/she will know exactly which foods given to them spells danger.
- By informing the teachers of your child’s allergy you keep your child safe in school. By packing your child’s lunch does not prevent them from eating the incorrect foods. There might be a birthday party in the class with cakes and chocolates.
- Some people are not very educated when it comes to allergies especially a milk allergy. For some unexplained reason they think an allergy for milk products means that the child must not drink a glass of milk, totally unaware of the fact that giving your child a slice of cheese also contains milk solids.