About five in 100 Americans are afflicted by food allergies and some believe the number to be even higher. Cow’s milk allergy is the most common food allergy in infants and young children. While most children eventually outgrow their milk allergy, the first few years can be extremely tough for the children and their parents.
Many infants and children who are allergic to cow’s milk also have gastroesophageal reflux. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, in up to half of the cases of acid reflux in infants younger than one year, there may be an association with cow’s milk allergy. The symptoms of reflux related to cow’s milk allergy can look the same as acid reflux in general.
Food allergies can be very confusing because an individual can sometimes have an adverse immunological response to the proteins in the food (usually called IgE mediated disease) and other times someone may just have a protein "intolerance." Both of these conditions can look different, but either condition can cause acid reflux to occur.
One of the interesting things about cow’s milk is that high temperatures change the physical properties of the milk. The majority of children (75 percent) who are otherwise allergic to milk, can tolerate it when it is heated or baked.
Children can build up a tolerance to milk with age. Just because your child does not tolerate milk as an infant, it does not mean he or she will never be able to have cow’s milk. In fact, the majority of children will outgrow their milk allergy by the time they are teenagers.
Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., is a freelance health writer and the C.E.O. of Tracy’s Smoothie Place. She serves as the expert on a weekly radio show about health and wellness and is the author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux and multiple articles about the cost of caregiving. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram @drinksmoothies.