Cows' milk protein allergy

If you are worried that your baby might be intolerant of or allergic to infant formula, you should contact your GP. The NHS website has lots of information on cow’s milk protein allergy (also called cow’s milk allergy or CMA), including diagnosis and treatment of both CMA and lactose intolerance Their summary of symptoms and treatments are:

What is CMA?

Cows' milk allergy (CMA), also called cows' milk protein allergy, is one of the most common childhood food allergies. It is estimated to affect between 2% and 7.5% of babies under one, though most children grow out of it by the age of five.

CMA typically develops when cows' milk is first introduced into your baby's diet either in formula or when your baby starts eating solids.

More rarely, it can affect babies who are exclusively breastfed because of cows' milk from the mother's diet passing to the baby through breast milk.

There are two main types of CMA:

  • immediate CMA – where symptoms typically begin within minutes of having cows' milk
  • delayed CMA – where symptoms typically begin several hours, or even days, after having cows' milk

Symptoms of cows' milk allergy

Cows' milk allergy can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • skin reactions – such as a red itchy rash or swelling of the lips, face and around the eyes
  • digestive problems – such as stomach ache, vomiting, colic, diarrhoea or constipation
  • hayfever-like symptoms – such as a runny or blocked nose
  • eczema that doesn't improve with treatment

Occasionally CMA can cause severe allergic symptoms that come on suddenly, such as swelling in the mouth or throat, wheezing, cough, shortness of breath, and difficult, noisy breathing.

A severe allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, is a medical emergency – call 999 or go immediately to your local hospital A&E department.

Treatment for CMA

If your baby is diagnosed with CMA, you'll be offered advice by your GP or an allergy specialist on how to manage their allergy. You may also be referred to a dietitian.

Treatment involves removing all cows' milk from your child's diet for a period of time. If your baby is formula-fed, your GP can prescribe special infant formula. Don't give your child any other type of milk without first getting medical advice.

If your baby is exclusively breastfed, the mother will be advised to avoid all cows' milk products.

Your child should be assessed every 6 to 12 months to see if they have grown out of their allergy.