Cows’ Milk Allergy (CMA)

Cows’ Milk Allergy

Cows’ milk allergy is the most common food allergy in babies and young children. But for many it can take numerous visits to medical professionals and months of treatment before the cause of their symptoms is finally identified. This is partly due to a low awareness of cows’ milk allergy amongst parents and healthcare professionals as well as treatment focusing on the individual symptoms, such as eczema and colic, rather than the underlying cause.

There are different types of cows’ milk allergy with differing symptoms – some children suffer immediately and others have a delayed response, showing symptoms hours or even days later. The chart below shows some common signs and symptoms that may indicate an immediate or delayed allergy to cows’ milk:

Delayed Cows’ Milk Allergy Immediate Cows’ Milk Allergy
Skin Itchy, red, rash, raised spots, atopic eczema (itchy/dry skin often behind the knees, ears or in front of the elbows). Skin Itchy, red, rash, raised spots, acute urticaria (‘nettle rash’ showing pink, white or red weals surrounded by red skin, usually itchy, may reappear after going away, may be all over or on specific parts of the body), skin swellings on the face (lips, by the eyes), head, neck, fingers or toes.
Gut responses Gastro-oesophageal reflux (back-arching crying and vomiting after feeds), loose stools, mucus in stools, ‘tummy’ pain, colic, refusing food, constipation, tiredness, pallor. Also faltering growth with any of the above Gut responses Swelling of lips or tongue, nausea, colicky pain, vomiting, diarrhoea.
Breathing Cough, chest tightness, wheezing or shortness of breath. Breathing Sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose, cough, chest tightness, wheezing or shortness of breath.
 No Anaphylaxis Anaphylaxis* Sudden wheezing, cough, shortness of breath very soon after exposure to cows’ milk.

* If you suspect your child is showing signs of anaphylaxis you should call 999 immediately.