Cow’s milk allergy is the most common food allergy occurring in young children, affecting around three percent of kids. Previous studies have shown that most children, up to 80 percent, will outgrow milk allergy by three to five years of age.
That means that a significant proportion of children (at least 20 percent of the three percent of children) will continue to be allergic to milk, at least until their adolescent or teenager years, and may never outgrow their milk allergy. More recent information suggests that the number of children who do not outgrow their milk allergy is even higher.
Your pediatrician may mention the term “allergy” without offering clarification that may help you get a better handle on exactly what your child is facing.
True allergy - True allergy to milk involves the presence of allergic antibodies, or IgE, against various proteins in milk. The diagnosis is made with a positive allergy test to milk.
Non-allergic reactions to milk - But non-allergic reactions to milk can also occur in children. These are identified by the absence of allergic antibody and a negative allergy testing result.
Non-allergic reactions to milk are broken down into two major types:
Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES) - FPIES typically occurs in young infants and is commonly outgrown by age three.
Lactose intolerance - Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, typically occurs in older children and adults and is less likely to be outgrown. Lactose intolerance is a food intolerance rather than a food allergy.
The diagnosis of true milk allergy may includes combination of a careful history, physical examination, an elimination diet, skin prick tests, specific IgE measurement, and a food challenge test.
Unfortunately, the most sensitive and specific test for milk allergy is a challenge test, having your child drink milk. This involves starting with an elimination diet, followed by an oral food challenge. This is not recommended, however, for children who have had an anaphylactic reaction to cow’s milk for obvious reasons.