Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Milk Allergy or Lactose Intolerance?

Does your child have an allergy or intolerance?  Over the years, I have found myself explaining this difference over and over again. It worries and frustrates me that a milk allergy is frequently mistaken for an intolerance.  Yes, many people are "lactose intolerant".  If you are intolerant, however, you don't have to worry about a life threatening reaction.  You might end up on the toilet rather than in need of Epinephrine and in an emergency room.

My frustrations started very early on in this process.  For instance, I remember reluctantly bringing my son to a new playgroup when he was about two years old and worrying about the cups of milk and spills and kids walking around with chocolate muffins and donuts.  I certainly was not comfortable leaving him, even though the parents I was getting to know all seemed quite nice.  One parent tried to comfort me by saying, "Well, you should be able to leave him.  I just won't give him milk."  Wouldn't it be nice, if it were that simple.  Of course, anyone with a food allergy, whether it's milk or something else, knows that even the smallest amount in any form could cause a severe, life threatening reaction.  It is not as easy to get this point across to others.  Someone actually said to me once, "What's the worst that could happen? So he might get an upset stomach or diarrhea".  I wish.  I truly wish our son only had to worry about an upset stomach.

What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?

Symptoms of lactose intolerance can be mild to severe, depending on how much lactase your body makes. Symptoms usually begin 30 minutes to 2 hours after you eat or drink milk products. If you have lactose intolerance, your symptoms may include:
  • Bloating.
  • Pain or cramps.
  • Gurgling or rumbling sounds in your belly.
  • Gas.
  • Loose stools or diarrhea.
  • Throwing up.

What are the symptoms of a food allergy?

Symptoms of a food allergy can range from mild to severe, and the amount of food necessary to trigger a reaction varies from person to person. Symptoms of a food allergy may include:
  • Rash or hives
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Itchy skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Swelling of the airways to the lungs
  • Anaphylaxis
The lists of symptoms for lactose intolerance and food allergies comes from

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