This week is Allergy Awareness Week and this year's topic is childhood food allergy.

Milk is a common product that some babies and children are allergic to.

Dieticians at NCIC are used to helping children and adults who have allergies.

Nicola Storey, Dietitian at NCIC, said: “Cow’s milk allergy (CMA) occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly reacts to proteins found in cow’s milk. In the UK, CMA affects two to three per cent of babies and young children, with most growing out of it by the age of five. Milk allergy is unusual in adults, but many report problems after consuming milk and dairy. Investigating how much can be tolerated, and in what form, can be very worthwhile and help alleviate symptoms.

“Allergic reactions can be immediate or delayed. Immediate allergy symptoms may include itchy rash, redness or hives (nettle rash), swelling, runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing, vomiting, swallowing or breathing difficulties (rare). Delayed allergy symptoms may include diarrhoea, constipation, reflux, profuse vomiting, mucous / blood in stools, nausea, abdominal (tummy) pain, bloating, painful wind, eczema.

“Some people react to the naturally occurring sugar (lactose) in cow’s milk. Cow’s milk allergy is not the same as lactose intolerance. Symptoms often include bloating, wind, diarrhoea and pain. If you - or your child - have symptoms after consuming cow’s milk/dairy then seek advice from your GP.

“A dietitian can help to investigate whether you need to strictly exclude cow’s milk or if you are able to tolerate certain forms of cow’s milk/dairy. Tolerance may depend on the amount of milk/dairy you are consuming, how often you consume it and whether it is cooked or not (and for the length of time and temperature it is cooked). The dietitian will also advise on achieving a balanced nutritious diet despite avoiding milk/dairy.”

Allergy Awareness Week is a chance to raise awareness about allergies while highlighting the difficulties people with allergies experience. It helps people understand the seriousness of some allergies, and improve our knowledge of what can sometimes be a life-threatening condition. 

An allergy is a reaction your body has to a particular food or substance. They're more common in children, but adults can get them too. Some are more serious than others and reactions to them can vary. 

The UK has some of the highest prevalence rates of allergic conditions in the world, with more than 20 per cent of the population affected by one or more allergic disorder. 

Did you know?

  • Allergies are very common, they're thought to affect more than 1 in 4 people in the UK at some point in their lives.
  • They're particularly common in children.
  • Adults can develop allergies of things they were not previously allergic to. 
  • Most common allergies include: grass and tree pollen (hay fever), food (such as nuts, shellfish and eggs), dust mites and medicines.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • A runny or blocked nose
  • A red, itchy rash
  • Worsening of eczema or asthma symptoms
  • Red, itchy and watery eyes


If you think you may have a food allergy, seek proper medical advice from your GP. They will discuss the use of evidence-based, conventional allergy testing. 

Nicola said: "The GP might refer to NCIC for skin prick tests or blood tests but the tests are only done where an IgE mediated allergy is suspected i.e. an immediate reaction. They often refer to us first for assessment."

Alternative allergy testing should be avoided as it has no scientific basis.

Dietitians can give you the correct nutritional advice and ensure a well-balanced nutritional intake that will be tasty, varied and culturally acceptable.

Children should not follow a restricted diet unless supervised by a paediatric dietitian as they need a well-balanced diet to ensure adequate growth and development.

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