Natural Allergy Testing and Treatment
Milk Allergy in Children 5 Signs The Allergy Co

Milk Allergy in Children – 5 signs and symptoms

Does your child have a milk allergy?

We hear a lot on TV and in social media about making sure to “get enough milk”, and how good a glass of milk is with every meal..

The truth is, whether we are adults or children, we do not need milk products in our diet to be healthy. We can get all the necessary nutrition from other foods. In addition to which milk allergy is very common and consuming milk products can bring a wide range of health issues.

Allergy or sensitivity?

Allergies typically cause a fairly immediate reaction such as runny nose, sneezing, hives, vomiting, diarrhoea and possibly anaphylaxis. Sensitivities on the other hand produce a delayed reaction that can take several days to show up. I might also refer to this as an intolerance. This is more difficult to spot due to the delay in the reaction.

At the end of the day, it does not make much difference whether it is an allergy or sensitivity, either way your child will be better off avoiding the offending food. Both can lead to discomfort, affect nutritional levels, and impact your child’s development.

One of the most common food allergies and sensitivities I see is a milk allergy. Your child may react to the sugar (lactose) and / or the protein (casein) in the milk, and some of the signs are not obviously linked to what they are eating.

The symptoms may start at a very young age due to your child being exposed to milk products through your breast milk. As a child graduates to solid food they are often given milk to drink, yoghurt and cheese. As a child gets older the symptoms may decrease. This can usually be attributed to the fact that the child is no longer drinking cups or bottles of milk, and a larger part of their diet is non-milk.

Here are 5 groups of symptoms that would lead me to suspect milk allergy.

1.Digestive upset

This is maybe the most obvious group of symptoms.

Colic, spitting up

Nausea, vomiting

Diarrhoea; may be greenish, smellly

Gas and bloating

Abdominal pain, tummy aches

2.Hyperactivity and sleep problems

I see many children in my practice who do not sleep well leading to irritability, temper tantrums and exhausted parents.

It is not unusual that removing milk products from their diet brings almost complete relief, in some cases going from just a few hours of sleep a night to a straight 10 hours within a few days of removing the milk.

3.Skin Conditions

When the body breaks out in a rash, hives, eczema, or the skin is either dry or just itchy it is trying to tell you something. One of the most common causes for this irritation is milk.

4.Respiratory issues

Even if your child does not have an allergy or sensitivity to milk it is generally mucous forming.

It is not unusual that asthma, cough, frequent colds, congestion, sinusitis and ear infections are linked to a milk allergy. I have a number of clients who were prepared to take their child to have their adenoids or tonsils removed who found that by removing milk products from the diet the symptoms improved and surgery was no longer necessary.

5.Failure to thrive

This is a little more difficult to spot. You may find that your child has black rings under their eyes, looks tired, lacks energy, is frequently unwell, tends not to gain weight or has excess weight for no obvious reason. They may have issues concentrating or mild to moderate learning difficulties.

If your child is drinking a lot of milk they may also have low iron levels as the calcium in the milk interferes with the uptake of iron from food. I had a recent 11yr old male client who was lethargic, unmotivated, had back and knee aches and a tendency to be quite plump. I tested him as being low in iron, and a blood test from his family doctor showed that he was borderline anaemic. He had been drinking a big glass of milk at every meal and at bedtime. This also meant that he was not eating a proper amount of food due to being full up with the milk.

Elimination diet to test for a milk allergy

Remove the milk for at least 3-4weeks. Monitor your child’s symptoms.

Try reintroducing one type of milk product over a week or so and see what happens.

You can then determine the level of tolerance, and which products are better or worse.

Switching to lactose free products may help, however, frequently the issue is the milk protein which will still be present so it best to remove ALL milk products.

This means milk (including chocolate milk), cheeses, yoghurt, cream, icecream, and milk in products such as chocolate, desserts, cakes and baked goods, flavoured crackers and chips.. and more – read the labels on things you buy.

It is important to remember that the reaction may not appear immediately, so you need to think about what your child ate 2, 3 or even 4 or more days ago. A food and symptom diary can be helpful for this.


At times medical interventions such as surgeries and medications are necessary. However, if you suspect a milk allergy or sensitivity you may want to remove milk products from your child’s diet first to see if that is the underlying cause for the issues.

To find out more, or determine whether your child does have a milk allergy, seek the advice of your Family Doctor, Naturopathic Doctor or Natural Allergist.

I also offer Allergy testing, for children from newborn and up, for milk and other foods to which they may be reacting.

Is your child sick all the time?

It is normal for a child to get sick. In fact it is a good thing!

Exposure to viruses and other bugs helps their immune system to develop and to learn what is a threat and what is not.

When a child starts day care or school they are exposed to many viruses and bugs that their immune system has never contacted before. This will also happen when their younger sibling first goes to day care or school, and, probably, the adults in the house will also catch the bug!

For the first 6 months or so your child has the immunity passed on to them from their mother. This immunity decays over time and their body has to start to produce its own antibodies to viruses and other bugs which means that until this happens, your child will get sick all the time…

It is important to remember that your child is not sick from having wet feet or hair, or playing outside in the cold, or even getting chilled. They have to be exposed to a virus or microbe which then multiples in our bodies. 

Some research shows that being exposed to adverse conditions such as cold actually strengthens our bodies and immune system.

Colds and other viruses are more prevalent in winter because we spend more time indoors, with windows closed and in close company of others. An ideal situation for sharing the viruses around.

When should you seek medical advice?

Generally you do not need to be concerned about your child having a cold unless your child has a high fever, a moderate fever that lasts more than 24-48hrs, they become dehydrated, or a develop a secondary infection such as sinusitis or bronchitis. Parenting has more information on this.

If you are concerned about your sick child you can always seek medical advice. You can do this over the phone at Telehealth Ontario.

And, of course, if your child has difficulty breathing, has seizures, or you suspect your child may be seriously ill take them to hospital or call 911 immediately.

Treating colds and other bugs.

Not much can be done to help your child fight a cold or other virus, or even a stomach upset, it just takes time. Keep them warm, well hydrated and try to get them into the fresh air making sure to keep them well wrapped up if its cold out.

Antibiotics do not treat viruses, but may be indicated if your child develops a secondary infection such as a chest or sinus infection.

Removing the tonsils or adenoids will also not stop your child getting sick. By removing them you can reduce symptoms, however that is all you are doing, reducing symptoms, you are not addressing the underlying cause of why your child is sick all the time.

Should I keep my sick child out of school?

As long as any fever has been gone for at least 24 hours, and their symptoms such as coughing is not enough to disturb other children they should be sent back to school as soon as possible. It may, however, be necessary to keep them out of physical activity until they feel up to it.

In conclusion

It is very normal, and even beneficial for your child to get sick several times a year. However, if they are sick more often, it takes them longer to recover, or they have recurrent secondary infections you should seek medical advice.

You may also wish to consult a Naturopathic Doctor or a Functional or Integrative Medical Doctor who can look more deeply into possible underlying causes that may be impacting their immune system.