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Is Dairy Triggering My Child's Eczema?

When your baby begins to itch and scratch, we know from experience it can be distressing. As a parent, you just want to take away the pain and make everything ok. When you can’t, you’re left feeling helpless.

The good thing is once you find the source, you’ll have a happy baby in no time. 

When we talk about children’s eczema, we hear a lot about the possibility it may be linked to an allergy to dairy products. It’s familiar advice that many people with eczema have heard: to manage your eczema, you need to cut dairy. So, what’s the go? Are dairy products really triggering my child’s eczema?

What Is Cow’s Milk Allergy?

Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy, also known as CMPA or CMA, is a type of food allergy where a baby’s immune system responds irregularly to the proteins found in cow’s milk, causing them to have an allergic reaction. 

Around 1 in 10 young children have a reaction when they drink cow’s milk. This could be because they have a lactose intolerance or a milk allergy. Milk allergy is much more common than lactose intolerance in children under 5. A milk protein allergy is not the same as lactose intolerance. Although they do have similar symptoms, unlike CMPA, lactose intolerance does not affect the immune system and is not considered an allergy. 

Different Types of Cow’s Milk Allergy 

There are two types of cow’s milk allergy depending on how the immune system reacts: 

  • Immediate CMPA (IgE-mediated) - Typically these allergic symptoms occur within minutes of consuming cow’s milk or up to two hours afterwards.
  • Delayed CMPA (non-IgE-mediated) - The other type of milk allergy happens when symptoms are ‘delayed’. The symptoms usually develop from two hours after consumption but can take up to 72 hours. If your child continues to consume cow’s milk, the immune system will continue to produce such symptoms over days or even weeks. 

Symptoms of Cow’s Milk Allergy 

One of the symptoms of a reaction to cow milk products can be eczema, which can range from severe to moderate and mild. Eczema flare ups can show up at any stage, whether it be within minutes, several hours, or after a day or several days after consuming cow’s milk. But, like any allergy, symptoms can affect all areas of the body including the skin, the digestive system, and in extremely rare cases, breathing or blood circulation. 

Some common symptoms of cow’s milk allergy include: 

  • Eczema 
  • Hives 
  • Red, itchy skin 
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Colic 
  • Constipation 
  • Constipation
  • Refusal to feed
  • Reflux 
  • Vomiting 
  • Wheezing 
  • Coughing 
  • Tiredness 
  • Trouble sleeping 

What Should I Do If I Suspect My Child Has Symptoms of Cow’s Milk Allergy?

If you suspect your child may have a cow’s milk protein allergy, see your pediatrician who will ask some questions about your child’s reactions. When you first notice signs of allergies, it’s a good idea to keep a record of your symptoms in a diary. Your diary should include information detailing the symptoms:

  • Inside your home, outside or both
  • Duration of symptoms 
  • At night, during the day or when you wake up
  • After you ate a particular food or drink 
  • After you have taken a particular medication
  • After you have taken a herbal medicine 

If your symptoms appear rapidly after eating or drinking milk or dairy products, the allergy may be easier to diagnose, whereas symptoms that take longer to appear make diagnosis more difficult. 

Your child can be tested by an allergist using various methods depending on the type of potential allergy. To test for an allergy, the allergist may:

  • Do a skin prick test 
  • Do a blood test 
  • Ask you to temporarily exclude all milk or products containing milk from your diet (elimination diet), then slowly introduce them back under strict medical supervision. 

Treatment for Cow’s Milk Allergy 

So your child has been diagnosed with CMPA… no worries! Once diagnosed, CMPA is completely manageable, and you can go back to enjoying feeding your child. Treatment will involve avoiding these known allergens of milk or products containing milk. Note: children who are allergic to cow’s milk are often also allergic to goat’s milk, so substituting with another animal’s milk may not be possible. 

To avoid milk and milk products, read food labels and avoid products such as: 

  • Butter 
  • Buttermilk 
  • Cheese 
  • Chocolate 
  • Ice cream 
  • milk powder
  • Cow’s or goat’s milk 
  • Cream 

This doesn’t mean you need to cut out dairy products completely. In fact, while most dairy products aggravate symptoms of eczema for some people, a 2019 study suggests some types of fermented dairy can actually assist in the management of eczema. 

Fermented dairy, such as yoghurt, are a source of probiotics, which can improve eczema symptoms by improving the gut and skin microbiome. Daily consumption of yoghurt has also been linked to reduced inflammation. 

Other types of fermented dairy products include:

  • Kefir 
  • Smen 
  • Cultured sour cream
  • Cultured buttermilk
  • Fermented cheeses 

When shopping for fermented dairy products, look for phrases such as “contains probiotics” and “live and active cultures”. 

Will the Allergy Go Away?

Here’s some good news: most children outgrow cows’ milk allergy. 

Studies show that most children with non-IgE-mediated reactions will outgrow cows’ milk allergy by the time they are 3 years old.

For children with IgE-mediated reactions, studies show that about half of these children will outgrow cows’ milk allergy by the time they are 5 years old.

Evidence suggests that CMPA is more likely to persist in children with asthma or allergic rhinitis, or if they have a more severe reaction or higher milk-specific IgE antibody levels. Even so, it’s rare for adults to have a cows’ milk allergy.

Management of Your Child’s Eczema 

You can keep your child’s eczema under control better when you get in a routine of moisturising their skin daily. It’s best to moisturise their skin right after a shower or bath when the skin’s pores are raw and open. 

Take a two step approach using our products to aid Eczema symptoms. 

Step One -Bath (tepid water) in Grahams Eczema Body & Bath Oil. This helps to barrier and protect the skin. The oil can be continued to be applied throughout the day if required.

Step Two - Apply the Graham Baby Eczema Cream to the areas that are red and inflamed. This will help with the redness and control any inflammation on the skin.

For children suffering from baby eczema, having a healthy gut can help prevent flare-ups. The gastrointestinal system, or the gut makes up 70% of the body’s immune system. Having a good immune system is particularly important for children suffering from eczema as flare-ups often occur when children are stressed and run-down. The gastrointestinal system plays a key role in overall immune health, as it communicates messages to and from the brain to fight against diseases. When working well, the system acts as a barrier to allow nutrients to pass but still protect against foreign pathogens.

Grahams Natural Alternatives have developed a product to help protect the gut from inflammation. It was quickly figured out that to treat eczema effectively you can’t just treat it topically you need to nourish it from the ‘inside, out’ as well. The Mega Oil contains 100% natural oil ingredients including Omega 3, 6 and 9, our oil to treat gut issues that can contribute to skin disorders and overall health issues. While the oil was designed for adult use, children can also use the Mega Oil. We do recommend giving it to children younger than 6 months. The Mega Oil can begin to be introduced into the child’s diet as they start on solids.

For the complete internal and external treatment for baby eczema,  Grahams Natural is offering the ultimate Baby Eczema relief bundle for a limited time only! This bundle includes our best-selling baby eczema cream, Baby Eczema Body and Bath Oil and Mega Oil. Using these products will help relieve the common symptoms of eczema on the skin as well as internally. 

For delicious and healthy Mega Oil recipes you can download our Mega Oil ebook for free!


Disclaimer: Information provided is of a general nature only, and you should always consult your medical professional.