An updated estimate showed that more than half of children aged 1 year and younger in the United States with food allergy are allergic to cow’s milk. The research, presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting, or ACAAI, suggested that as children age, the percentage of those with cow’s milk allergy decreases.
Christopher Warren, a PhD candidate and part-time research coordinator at the Science and Outcomes of Allergy and Asthma Research (SOAAR) program at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and colleagues wrote that cow’s milk allergy is the second most common food allergy among American children.
“Children in the U.S. spend their early years drinking milk, so it is important to know that many of them — at least in the first few years — may be allergic,” Warren said in a press release. “Our study findings suggest that while milk allergy is relatively common during infancy, many children are likely to outgrow their milk allergies.”
The researchers conducted a cross-sectional survey that included 53,575 parents between October 2015 and September 2016. The survey collected information about demographics, children’s allergic symptoms and the severity of those symptoms, their diagnosis and their tolerance for baked milk.
According to the researchers, 1.9% of children had cow’s milk allergy. Infants with food allergy were most commonly affected, with 53% of parents reporting cow’s milk allergy.
According to the researchers, once children reached the age of 1 to 2 years, the rate of milk allergy decreased to 41% and decreased again once they reached the age of 3 to 5 years (34%). Milk allergy, according to Warren and colleagues, affects 15% of food-allergic adolescents between the ages of 11 and 17 years.
“We know confusion exists over what a real milk allergy looks like,” Ruchi Gupta, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and medicine at Northwestern University, Mary Ann & J. Millburn Smith Senior Scientist in child health research, clinical attending at Lurie Children’s, director of the SOAAR program and ACAAI member, said in the release.
She added that many parents may mistake a milk intolerance for an allergy. If a child is suspected of having a milk allergy, an allergist should be consulted.
“A food allergy of any kind can have a big effect on a household, including food costs and quality of life,” she said. “A child with a milk allergy should receive counseling on how to avoid milk but also on what it means to unnecessarily cut out foods. You do not want to get rid of necessary nutrients.” – by Katherine Bortz
Disclosure: Gupta reports numerous ties to industry. Warren reports no relevant financial disclosures.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to show that more than half of U.S. children aged 1 year and younger with food allergies are allergic to milk and that 15% of food-allergic teenagers are allergic to milk. The editors regret the error.