Is my baby allergic to milk?

Monday August 12 2019


By Vincent Karuhanga

My eight-month-old baby vomits whenever she takes milk even when it is mixed with porridge. However, if the porridge is plain, she does not vomit. Any remedies? Milka

Dear Milka,
Vomiting is one way (apart from diarrhoea), the body expels from the alimentary canal what is eaten or drank but deemed to have a potential of harming one’s health. Children below one year may have a milk allergy (to casein and whey proteins) so that even when milk is taken in small quantities disguised in porridge, the body may react leading to vomiting and other symptoms such as a skin rash, runny nose, cough or diarrhoea.

That said, infants may fail to properly digest lactose, a sugar in milk ending up with the same symptoms as those of a milk allergy though vomiting here is less common and the intolerance worsens when bigger amounts of milk are consumed. Whereas an allergy to milk may start in infancy, lactose intolerance usually starts later in childhood and worsens with age, becoming worse in adulthood.

Also, the intolerance does not lead to an itchy skin rash, cough or runny/stuffy nose symptom of a milk allergy unless one coincidentally has an allergy and intolerance at the same time.
Skin allergy tests may be done to differentiate milk allergy from lactose intolerance because the two have different ways of management. After giving milk and doing a hydrogen breath test, an increase in hydrogen then can indicate lactose intolerance.

Fortunately, by three years of age, a number of children may have outgrown allergy to milk, which is too nutritious to avoid taking. Also, milk allergy is usually to animal milk or formula but rarely to breast milk so that breastfeeding without supplementation with milk products is key to treatment.

Some people with an allergy to milk may also be allergic to soy milk requiring avoiding it as well. Lactose intolerance is usually not serious requiring use of lactase enzyme supplementation and diluting the milk or milk products. When the intolerance is serious, one may require discontinuation of milk altogether and supplementing with non-milk substitutes such as those with calcium.