Milk allergy. It’s so common, but often misunderstood. Here are 6 common milk allergy myths: some of the most frustrating things I’ve found that people don’t understand about living with severe cow’s milk protein allergy.
#1 “It’s not like peanut allergy”
This is a common one. And of many milk allergy myths, this one can be dangerous. Apparently a lot of people think that as far as foods go, only peanuts cause severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis. Unfortunately this not the case. People with milk allergy can have reactions ranging from milk to severe or life threatening. They may need immediate treatment with an EpiPen.
I’ve witnessed a severe reaction to cow’s milk first hand in my own family. Fortunately it happened in a controlled environment when we were at the hospital for an oral food challenge. It isn’t something I’d like to go through again.
#2 “Only children have a milk allergy” or “you’ll grow out of it”
There is at least a reasonable basis for people to think this. Milk allergy is really common in children. About 1 in 50 babies in Australia have cow’s milk protein allergy. And most of them (about 80%) do out grow it by the time they start school. But not everyone does!
Milk allergy can definitely persist into the teenage years and beyond. People can even develop an allergy to milk as adults.
We’ve been avoiding milk in our house for 12 years so far and still counting.
#3 “At least milk is easy to avoid”
Oh no, it’s not! I personally think it’s one of the hardest allergens to avoid.
Let’s start with the obvious, dairy products: milk. butter, cheese, yoghurt, cream, icecream. That’s not too hard.
But here are some of the other places milk is often found:
- baked goods like cakes, biscuits and pastries
- chocolate and lollies
- breakfast cereals
- baby foods and rusks
- drink flavourings
- pasta sauce
- flavoured chips
- deli meats (ham, turkey etc are often basted with milk)
- processed meats like sausages and hamburgers
- sorbet and gelati
- powdered foods and flavourings (gravy, stock, instant mashed potato, noodle flavourings)
Sometimes milk is where you really wouldn’t expect it. It might be in something you would reach for as a substitute for dairy, like soy cheese or coconut milk.
Milk is everywhere. That’s why checking food labels is so important.
#4 “It’s ok, we have lactose free milk”
This milk allergy myth is so frustrating. Lactose is a natural sugar found in milk. Some people have trouble digesting this sugar: they are lactose intolerant. This can cause lots of unpleasant and uncomfortable symptoms. Cow’s milk allergy is an allergy to proteins found in milk which cause the body to react. An allergic reaction to milk can range from mild to severe or life threatening. Lactose free dairy products still have the milk proteins in them and are not safe for people with milk allergy.
“… or A2 milk”
Frighteningly, I’ve heard this from a medical professional, who suggested that A2 milk would be suitable for a child with milk protein allergy. Again, A2 milk still has milk proteins and is definitely not suitable for people with milk allergy.
#5 “These are gluten free”
This is just strange. But if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this I’d be very rich. Eating out, you do the right thing and disclose your milk allergy and ask if there is anything without milk in it. The well-meaning person serving you points to the top shelf of the display cabinet and says “all of these are gluten free”. I really do not understand this confusion.
Yes, there are people who are allergic to wheat. Other people have coeliac disease and definitely can’t have gluten. Then there are people who are intolerant to both gluten and milk. There are also people who choose not to eat gluten or dairy for various health or lifestyle reasons. But it is not the same as having an allergy to the protein found in cow’s milk.
#6 “If you have to avoid milk, aren’t you are going to miss out on pizza and dessert?“
Not at all! This is one of the milk allergy myths that it makes me very happy to disprove.
Pizza is on high rotation at our house. We love to make our own from scratch, but that doesn’t mean we don’t also order take away.
Thanks to the increasing availability of vegan food, there is an enormous variety of dairy free cheese available now. You can buy it at the supermarket right next to the milk based cheeses. And our local pizza place happily makes us a pepperoni pizza that is completely dairy free. (Just be careful, as some vegan cheese do have traces of milk and some are made with nuts, especially cashews).
And dessert is sorted too. We have tried and enjoyed a host of dairy (and egg and nut) free ice creams. Even Magnum icecreams come in dairy free varieties now! We love the salted caramel.
Feel like pancakes? No problem. We’ve have a great dairy free pancake recipe for you – Easiest ever allergy friendly pancakes
There are so many other milk free substitutes available – dairy free spreads, soy or coconut yoghurts, even soy or coconut condensed milk. It makes it so easy to cook your usual recipes and just substitute where needed. No need for fancy dairy free recipes most of the time. All of the easy recipes on our recipes page are milk free.
More information about milk allergy
Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia has a wealth of information about milk allergy on its website, including a handy milk allergy allergen card.
How do you go managing your milk allergy and making sure people understand that it’s more than just an upset tummy?