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Expert Speak

Milk Allergy

Dr. J Viswanath

Dr Viswanath J, MD (Paed), D C H, FRSH (Lond.)

Diarrhoea is a common problem in infants. Many children who have frequent bouts of diarrhoea are diagnosed to have Milk Allergy. Dr J Viswanath, a senior paediatrician based in Chennai, explains the cause and treatment for Milk Allergy.

What is Milk Allergy?

When a baby drinks milk, lactose (the sugar present in milk) is broken down in the intestine into glucose and galactose by an enzyme called lactase. This enzyme is present in the superficial layers of the intestinal villi. Diarrhoea and vomiting, as in acute gasteroenteritis, may often result in the shedding of the superficial layers of the intestinal villi, resulting in a lactase deficiency.

Therefore lactose ( or milk) is not digested or absorbed by the body. Instead, it is fermented by bacterial action into lactic acid, carbon di oxide and water. Stools in such a child becomes acidic, loose and explosive.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Diarrhoea persists for more than one week.
  • Redness around the anal area.
  • Frothy, foaming, foul smelling and loose stools.
  • Good appetite in spite of diarrhoea.

Diagnosing Milk Allergy:

  • Acidity of motion can be determined by using litmus paper in the water content of motion.
  • Benedict’s Reagent test can be done to check for sugar in motion.
  • Sophisticated tests like breath hydrogen are also available but not commonly done.

Treatment for Milk Allergy:

  • Temporarily avoiding milk and sugar in the baby’s diet.
  • Preferably excluding fruits, biscuits, fresh curd and syrupy form of medicines containing sugar.
  • Roasted Bengal gram porridge is a good substitute diet. It is an ideal option because it is cheap, easily prepared and affordable for any income group.
  • Soybean milk can also be given. It is a high protein diet and helps in replenishing the enzyme quickly.

Can Milk Allergy be prevented?

Milk Allergy can be minimised by preventing diarrhoea and avoiding the foods that produce diarrhoea. Avoiding infective diarrhoea by means of good hygiene and sanitation and by boiling water before drinking will also help in reducing the severity of milk allergy.

Does Milk Allergy affect Adults?

A small percentage of adults have Milk Allergy. They have minor stomach upsets and gas formation.


Dr. J. Viswanath M.D., D.C.H., F.R.S.H.(London)

Dr. J. Viswanath is a senior Paediatrician with a hugely successful practice. A product of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi and later Christian Medical College, Vellore, Dr.Viswanath had his Post-Graduate training at the Institute of Child Health and Hospital for Children, Chennai. He is the author of a book on childcare entitled Your Child. He is a regular contributor to a number of magazines and his writings on Child Health have made him a household name in Southern India.

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