Discovering that your child has a chronic ailment — no matter how small — can be a nightmare for any parent. Milk allergies are no exception.
It’s one of the most common allergies in children, and it can lead to weaker bones and higher risks of health issues than other types of food allergies.
But you’re in luck! Children with milk allergies typically outgrow the condition by the age of 5. More good news: There are plenty of dairy-free alternatives to enjoy in the meantime, many with the same minerals and nutrients as cow’s milk — sometimes more.
Fortunately, if your child exhibits a milk allergy, there’s no need to worry too much. Even children who don’t outgrow milk allergies can live long, healthy, nutritious lives without ever touching a drop of dairy.
It’s Not Just Lactose Intolerance
Unlike lactose intolerance, which is the inability to digest lactose, a milk allergy describes a negative immune reaction to the animal proteins in milk and dairy. Its symptoms include wheezing, vomiting, hives, and/or digestive problems — and in severe but rare cases, life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
But the biological reactions that make milk allergies dangerous can be avoided by simply not consuming dairy. The trouble is that this can lead to calcium and vitamin D deficiencies, which can lead to osteoporosis (weak, brittle bones), cardiovascular disease, asthma, and more.
Healthy Alternatives to Dairy
For children with milk allergies, a healthy intake of calcium, vitamin D, and protein is just as important as avoiding dairy. Here are a few tips to help you make sure your child gets all the nutrients he or she needs:
- There are many plant-based alternative milks that are good sources of calcium and vitamin D, but not all of them are. Check nutrition labels to make sure the milk contains at least 30 percent of the recommended daily value of calcium and at least 25 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin D.
- Milk alternatives that are high in calcium and vitamin D might contain little or no protein, which helps the body absorb calcium. Protein is also an important building block of body tissues, including muscle, cartilage, and bone. Be sure your child’s diet contains plenty of protein to make up for the lack in certain milk alternatives.
- Don’t rely solely on dairy-free milk to provide children with all of their necessary minerals and nutrients. For instance, foods like bone broth, green leafy vegetables, and fish are high in absorbable calcium as well as a wealth of other essential minerals and nutrients.
The potential health risks would make any parent worry about a child with a milk allergy. But the truth is that a life without dairy doesn’t have to be much different than anyone else’s. Most of a milk allergy’s harm comes from a lack of nutrition, and with a little diligence, you can make nutrition deficiency a non-factor in your child’s overall health.
Adam Lowry is the co-founder of Ripple Foods, a company that exists to make dairy-free foods as they should be: high in protein, low in sugar, loaded with nutrition, and delicious. Adam believes that business is our greatest vehicle for positive social and environmental change. Connect with Ripple Foods on Twitter.