Allergy UK and Mead Johnson Nutrition have started a recent campaign to raise awareness of the symptoms of CMA in order to help parents recognise the symptoms and gain a correct diagnosis more quickly. CMA occurs when your child's immune system identifies a protein found in cow's milk as harmful setting up an allergic reaction. Despite being an allergic reaction, the symptoms can be both delayed or immediate (within minutes). It is worthwhile noting that CMA is not the same as lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance does not involve the immune system and occurs when one's digestive system cannot break down lactose the sugar contained in milk.
The severity of symptoms in CMA can vary. There are two types of CMA, IgE mediated allergy and non-IgE mediated allergy. IgE mediated allergic reaction normally occurs within minutes of consuming a food or drink that contains milk, and the symptoms can include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tummy pain
- A runny, blocked or stuffy nose
- Coughing, shortness of breath or wheezing
- A red raised itchy rash (can be anywhere on the body)
- Itchy eyes and/or mouth
Symptoms of non-Ige mediated allergy to cow's milk are more likely to be delayed up to many hours after consuming milk produce. The symptoms maybe similar to those in an IgE mediated allergic reaction (above), but may also include the following symptoms:
- Itchy, red skin
- Reflux (bringing up small amounts of milk)
- Loose stools
- Mucus and/or blood in the stool
- Redness around the anus and genitals
- Colic or pain
- Poor growth.
Lactose intolerance on the other hand is rare in babies born in the UK (it is more common in Africa, Asia and South America where cow's milk is not generally consumed). You may notice your baby becomes more sensitive to cow's milk after a stomach bug (which has interfered with the natural levels of lactase the enzyme that helps break down lactose in your child's gut), which maybe a short-term lactose intolerance. In which case avoiding dairy products for a short-time maybe advisable.
This handy factsheet lists foods that contain cow's milk protein. It's also worth considering if your child is diagnosed with CMA they may also be allergic to proteins from other animal products such as goat's and sheep. Always see your doctor or a dietitian before cutting food groups out of yours (if you are breastfeeding) or your baby's diet.