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Milk Allergy

Cow’s milk allergy is the most common allergy among infants and young children.1,2 A milk allergy, like every allergy, is when your immune system mistakenly identifies one or both of these proteins as harmful.  When you ingest these proteins, your immune system responds and releases histamines, which then cause your allergic symptoms.

Between 2–3% of children younger than age 3 are allergic to milk.1 Nearly all infants who develop an allergy to milk do so in their first year of life, but about 80% are likely to outgrow their milk allergy.3 But this research also suggests that children are outgrowing their milk allergy more slowly than before, with many children still allergic beyond age 5.3

Since the majority of children do outgrow their milk allergy, periodic re-evaluation—including testing—is recommended.

However, children who have high levels of cow’s milk antibodies in their blood are most likely to have a milk allergy for life.3 A simple blood test that measures these antibodies can help your healthcare professional determine whether or not your child is likely to outgrow their milk allergy.    

Between 2-3% of children younger than age 3 are allergic to milk infographic

Milk allergy symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of milk allergy can include: 

  • Mild wheezing or coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Skin rashes/hives 
  • Digestive symptoms (e.g. stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea)
  • Bloody stools (especially in infants)

Infants and children who are allergic to milk are more likely to have eczema (atopic dermatitis) and other allergies.4,5

Anaphylaxis warning icon

Allergic reactions to cow’s milk vary from person to person. Your reaction can occur from just minutes to hours later after ingesting something that contains milk.

Reactions can also range from mild to severe, including the life-threatening reaction anaphylaxis. 

Learn more about anaphylaxis >

Milk Allergy Testing

Ask Questions. Get Answers.

“Do I have a milk allergy?” isn’t a simple “yes” or “no” question. Milk allergy reactions can vary from localized reactions, such as a rash, to systemic reactions, including anaphylaxis. These reactions depend on which milk protein is causing the reaction.

Milk comprises different proteins; a person with a milk allergy could be reacting to one more of these proteins.

Specific IgE blood testing for milk components helps your healthcare provider identify the specific proteins that may cause your reactions. So instead of knowing that you're allergic to milk in general, you can know exactly which protein may trigger the reaction and the likelihood of outgrowing the allergy. Testing with allergen components can also be used to determine whether the allergy is to a protein that can be broken down when exposed to extensive heat, such as in cheese pizza or cookies. And component testing can help your healthcare provider determine whether an oral food challenge (OFC) test is recommended. An OFC test can be used to help confirm your milk allergy or to determine whether you have outgrown it.

Meaning, you can get answers to questions such as:

"Will cookies trigger my symptoms?"

"Can I potentially outgrow my milk allergy?"

Because it's not just knowledge you'll gain, but peace of mind, too. 


Create your personalized symptom assessment.


Common milk allergy triggers

Avoiding milk is much more complicated than just leaving the cheese off of your burger. Milk can be a hidden ingredient in many foods—which is why it’s important to read the label or ask before buying or eating any food. Ingredients in packaged foods can change at any time—and without warning—so always read labels carefully. 

Milk can be found in a variety of foods including:    


Other cross-reactive symptoms

There is a high degree of cross-reactivity between cow's milk and the milk from other mammals. Cross-reactivity is when the proteins in one food are similar to the proteins in another and your body's immune system sees them as the same. So, people who are allergic to cow’s milk are often advised to also avoid milk from other domestic animals like sheep, goats and buffalo. In studies, the risk of an allergic reaction to goat's milk or sheep's milk in a person with a cow’s milk allergy is about 90%.6

Learn more about cross-reactivity > 

Cross Reactivity OAS infographic


Baked milk breakthrough

When milk is thoroughly heated or cooked, the proteins change shape and for some people this could mean that their immune system will no longer overreact to the protein. In fact, studies have shown that 75% of children with a milk allergy can actually tolerate baked foods containing milk, like a muffin or cake.7,8

This means some people with a milk allergy can go to a birthday party and taste the cake, as opposed to skipping the cake (or the party) completely. A simple blood test can help your healthcare professional determine if you’re a good candidate for an oral food challenge to see if you’re likely to tolerate baked milk.    


Milk Allergy vs Lactose Intolerance

Milk allergy is often confused with lactose intolerance because you can have the same digestive symptoms, like bloating, gas or diarrhea, with both. While a milk allergy is an immune system reaction to milk protein, with lactose intolerance the body can’t digest lactose (milk sugar). Lactose intolerance doesn’t cause an immune system reaction, so although it can cause discomfort, it’s not life-threatening.

If you suffer digestive problems after eating or drinking milk or dairy products, talk to your healthcare professional about a simple blood test.

There are several good reasons why a blood test should be considered: Testing is easy to perform and can help determine whether the symptoms are actually due to a milk allergy or not.

My Symptom Profile

My Symptom Profile

Make the most of your appointment
Talk to your healthcare provider about specific IgE blood testing.

Use these questions to help your healthcare provider understand what’s going on with your symptoms. Review your answers together during your office visit to decide if specific IgE blood testing is right for you.

Help your healthcare provider understand what’s been going on with your symptoms and decide if specific IgE blood testing is right for you!

Start Questionnaire

Here Is Your Recap. Now What?

What can your My Symptom Profile tell you about allergies? Nothing, by itself. So resist the temptation to self-diagnose. Treating allergy symptoms with over-the-counter medications or other remedies without determining the cause could lead to more issues in the long run. When paired with testing, such as specific IgE blood testing for food or respiratory allergies, your My Symptom Profile can guide your healthcare provider in creating a customized trigger-management plan to help reduce exposure to suspected allergens.

What symptoms are you experiencing or have you experienced?

Do your symptoms get worse during a particular time?

Do you notice your symptoms more in certain places?

How long have your symptoms been present?


Select all that apply
Runny nose
Itchy eyes
Chest tightness
Abdominal cramps
Itchy mouth
Difficulty breathing
Red, itchy patches of skin
Scratchy throat
Select all that apply
In the morning
At nighttime
In the fall
In the spring/summer
In winter or when temperatures drop
After eating certain foods
When sick
During or after exercise
Select all that apply
At home
At school/work
Around pets or animals
Select one
Since birth
Less than 1 week
More than 6 weeks
For several years

Download a PDF of your results to help guide your conversation and maximize your time with your healthcare provider.

Download Results
Testing icon

Am I allergic?

If you think you or a loved one may have a milk allergy, don’t try to manage the problem on your own. A simple blood test - together with your medical history- can help identify underlying allergen triggers, if you have an allergy.

Knowing if you’re allergic and what you’re allergic to can help you get relief. Be sure to consult your healthcare professional.

  1. Lifschitz, C and Szajewska H. Cow’s milk allergy: evidence-based diagnosis and management for the practitioner.  Eur J Pediatr 2015; 174:141-15..
  2. Sampson, HA. 9. Food Allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol;2003; 111(2Suppl): S540-7.
  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine, Milk And Egg Allergies Harder To Outgrow https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071215205437.htm. Accessed August 2017.
  4. Spergel JM, et al. Food Allergy in Infants With Atopic Dermatitis: Limitations of Food-Specific IgE Measurements. Pediatrics; 2015 Dec;136(6):e1530-8.
  5. Novembre E, Vierucci A. Milk allergy/intolerance and atopic dermatitis in infancy and childhood. Allergy. 2001;56 Suppl 67:105-8.
  6. Rangel, A et al. Lactose intolerance and cow’s milk protein allergy. Food Sci. Technol, Campinas, 36(2): 179-187, Abr.-Jun. 2016.
  7. Nowak-Wegrzyn A, et al. Tolerance to extensively heated milk in children with cow’s milk allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008;122:342-7.
  8. Caubet JC, et al. Utility of casein-specific IgE levels in predicting reactivity to baked milk. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013;131:222-4.