Know the Difference: Milk Allergy vs. Dairy Allergy vs. Lactose Intolerance

Milk allergy should not be confused with lactose intolerance. Milk allergy is a food allergy, which is an overreaction of the immune system to a specific food protein. When the food protein is ingested, it can trigger an allergic reaction that may include a range of symptoms from mild symptoms (rashes, hives, itching, swelling, etc.) to severe symptoms (trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness, etc.). Reactions to milk can be severe and life-threatening (read more about anaphylaxis).

Milk allergy is sometimes referred to as dairy allergy, but this term should be used with caution. Dairy is a category of products that contain cow’s milk. Since this is a product category – not a single ingredient (such as milk) – it is not listed in ingredient statements on processed foods. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act requires that products containing milk list it as an ingredient, and so when teaching others about this allergy, using the term milk instead of dairy can help them better read ingredient labels. The term "dairy allergy" can also cause confusion with egg allergy since eggs are usually located near the dairy product case in the grocery store. Using the specific term – milk allergy – helps to eliminate this confusion.

Unlike food allergies, food intolerances do not involve the immune system. People who are lactose intolerant are missing the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products. As a result, individuals who are lactose intolerant are unable to digest these foods, and may experience symptoms such as nausea, cramps, gas, bloating and diarrhea. While lactose intolerance can cause great discomfort, it is not life-threatening.

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48 years 9 months

Submitted by Romona Roberts (not verified) on Tue, 01/23/2018 - 02:57

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I ate a couple of spoons of lactase ice cream and a few hours later I drunk a half cup of hole milk my stomachs and back is tight feel I need to move my bowel nothing passing gas often.

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48 years 9 months

Submitted by Ty W (not verified) on Wed, 02/14/2018 - 04:45

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I have always had a hard time explaining to people about my allergy to "cow" milk because they always jump to the conclusion that I am "lactose intolerant" . Not true, not even close, after ingesting milk I get a rash looking whelts/sores inside my mouth, my lips get this numbing tunnelling feeling, my neck swells, "at this point I am drinking Benadryl, because it helps relief some of the swelling, my glands in my neck and arm pits will be tender for up to 62 hours after ingesting the milk. Now I have never noticed any reaction to bread with milk listed in the ingredients (try finding a bread without milk) , my reaction is pretty bad, and seems to be getting worse (my first reaction reaction happened in my early 30s began with an itchy that nearly 10 years later, I feel like I'm going to die. The reaction is all "cow" milk whether it being milk, yogurt, Ice Cream, sour cream, and cheeses, with or without lactose. It's really really hard to not ingest dairy because it's in a lot of stuff, salad dressings, sauses, custards, creams, to make matters worse I am also allergic to cashews, pine nuts and soy.

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48 years 9 months

Submitted by kelly (not verified) on Tue, 02/20/2018 - 14:40

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i have a "dairy" allergy. Any food with any dairy component except eggs gives me hives and itching. Even sourdough bread with lactic acid starter culture causes this problem. Cookies with butter, cakes with buttercream frosting, foods containing whey, foods cooked with butter... literally all dairy. i have to basically eat Asian cuisine or cook at home or i have hives.

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48 years 9 months

Submitted by Alex (not verified) on Fri, 03/23/2018 - 00:45

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I think I might have both an allergy to milk and a lactose intolerance? I got digestive issues first, then a couple days after that, I noticed a rash around my mouth. (similar to the ones I get with my other food allegies) I don’t think I’ve eaten anything that I know I’m allergic to, and it appeared around the time I was having problems drinking milk without getting sick. Is it possible that I developed both at about the same time..?

A board-certified allergist would be the best person to talk to to determine what is happening. If you do not already work with one, AAAAI offers a search tool to find one near you. http://allergist.aaaai.org/find/

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48 years 9 months

Submitted by JoAnn (not verified) on Sun, 04/08/2018 - 14:48

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Our daughter can eat certain aged Cheeses like Medium cheddar for instance,but has a Severe Excema or severe Diarrhea with regular Glass Cows Milk. She eats Baked Milk products as well. What is this and How can I explain this to her School Team. Thanks.

I also have an anaphylactic milk allergy and have since I was an infant. I too can eat some hard cheeses. I've found that I can also have UHT milk, which is ultra-pasteurized. The pasteurization at high temperatures alters the proteins so my immune system doesn't recognize them. They sell this milk at most grocery stores. I buy the Horizon Organic whole milk, but Walmart even has a generic UHT milk, which I also love.

I can also tolerate ghee, which is clarified butter. Ghee is mainly milk fat and the processing alters the proteins. I can't find it in stores, but I order it on Amazon. It's expensive, $13.00 for 9 ounces, but it's worth it to have butter occasionally.

Finding these two items significantly improved the quality of my life. I suggest that anyone who has a milk allergy tries them with extreme caution and discusses it with their doctor first.

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48 years 9 months

Submitted by Christine C (not verified) on Tue, 04/10/2018 - 20:32

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I did a food sensitivity test and I got my results back. It says I should avoid cottage cheese, cow's milk and whey. Not really sure what foods would be considered to have whey? It also says that I can have cheddar cheese, goat's milk and mozzarella which if you're sensitive to cow's milk wouldn't you be sensitive to these things as well?

Suspected food allergies should always be evaluated, diagnosed and treated by a qualified medical professional, such as a board-certified allergist. Find out more here:

https://www.foodallergy.org/life-with-food-allergies/food-allergy-101/diagnosis-testing

 

Member for

48 years 9 months

Submitted by Eve Daley (not verified) on Sat, 04/14/2018 - 00:27

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I can't seem to figure out exactly what my allergy is. I have this problem where, whenever I consume milk, my sinuses feel clogged and my throat is filled with mucus. I rarely ever get any of the symptoms listed above. I just get this sick feeling, as if I have a cold, with lots of mucus inside my throat and my mouth. Does anyone have an idea of what exactly this is, or knows of a similar problem?

A board-certified allergist would be the best person to talk to to determine what is happening. If you do not already work with one, AAAAI offers a search tool to find one near you. http://allergist.aaaai.org/find/

Not sure ,how old this post is .So if you figured it out by now please let me know ,thanks cause I'm going through the same thing ....im looking at things around me that could be the problem ...do you wheeze after the dairy products? What I've came up with so far .Is 1) 3rd hand smoke,2)meat)3)working on the dairy thing . I stopped eating meat 2 years ago,good 4 digestion. Didn't help allergies. I thought back to when the problem started. 1)I met a smoker(not allowed to smoke in house ,etc.2) I drink coffee every day in the am but I've been putting. (Non dairy creamer)guess the cream comes from somewhere.. so this is where I'm at .......my next look is SUGAR. After that I'll probably become vegan !!

Have you found an answer to your allergy? I’m having the same problems. It’s been years of this off and on. Just had a milkshake last week that triggered a horrible attack so now I’m looking into milk allergy. I can’t find great testing yet because my skin doesn’t react - no rash, etc.

Member for

48 years 9 months

Submitted by Brooke (not verified) on Mon, 04/16/2018 - 02:39

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When I have dairy products (milkshakes or fettuccine) my back kills me! Like almost in tears pain. My entire back. Does anyone know what this could be??

Could be gas. I thought I had a major problem due to how much pain I was in. I was in tears, rocking, etc. They told me it was gas. I had an ultrasound and various tests and they all came back fine. Just gas, apparently.

It could be gas, it could be worse. I went to the ER (ambulance) because the pain i experienced was so bad I could barely move on my own. I went through many tests. They believe I may have had a blockage in my gall bladder, however, there’s a possibility it could have been severe gas. Apparently it’s not uncommon....

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48 years 9 months

Submitted by Alex (not verified) on Fri, 06/01/2018 - 22:06

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I'm a 56 yo male. For months I'd been having problems like frequent stomach aches, frequent persistent hungry feelings, and less often, cramps and diarrhea sometimes starting in the middle of the night. After a bunch of tests that didn't find anything, I stopped eating anything with milk in it and I'm pretty much fine now though it took over a month to feel normal. Lactose free milk also causes me trouble, I just have to avoid it all. So I guess this problem can start later in life.

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