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Diagnosing a Cow's Milk Protein Intolerance

Immediate type (IgE-mediated) cow's milk protein allergy is relatively easy to diagnose by your allergy specialist, who will:

  • take a thorough history
  • perform skin prick tests
  • may request blood tests

Delayed type (non IgE-mediated) cow's milk protein allergy is more tricky to diagnose as there are no lab tests available to diagnose it. As the symptoms of a milk intolerance vary so significantly from one baby to the next, what your Health Care Practitioner may suggest is an elimination diet.

If the mother is breastfeeding and the diagnosis of cow's milk allergy is being considered, she should eliminate all dairy products from her own diet for a period of between 2 and 4 weeks, and then gradually re-introduce them, watching for symptoms in her baby. It is essential to seek advice from a Dietician or Nutritionist before embarking on an elimination diet, as they will guide explain how to do it correctly.

If your baby is formula fed, your Health Care Practitioner may suggest a switch from the current formula, to one that is free from Cow's milk, to determine if any relief from the symptoms is achieved and in so doing diagnose a milk Intolerance, or not.

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 This article has been co-written with Paediatrician and Allergy Specialist, Dr Claudia Gray (MBChB (UCT), MRCPCH (London), MScClin Pharm(Surrey), DipPaedNutrition (UK), PostgradDipAllergy (Southampton), Certified Paediatric Allergologist (SA))

Dr Gray works at the allergy clinic at the Red Cross Children's Hospital in Cape Town, and has a private practice at Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town, contact 021 531 8013.