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Cow’s Milk Is About to Surpass Nuts as Most Common Food Allergy

Having a cow's milk allergy can be just as dangerous as a nut allergy.

Peanut allergies, and food allergies, seem to be everywhere. Raising a child with severe allergies to food can be challenging, but luckily for parents, there is institutional support. Most schools have some form of policy for peanuts – which was the most common allergy for kids – to help mitigate the dangers of a reaction. But, according to a new report, the rates of having a cow’s milk allergy are growing and becoming way more common. And it can be just as dangerous.

According to a report on WebMD, food-related allergic reactions have seen a 25% increase in hospitalizations for kids between 2006 and 2012, according to data taken from pediatric hospital analysis in 2019. For several years, peanuts and other tree nuts have been the focus of allergy prevention at schools and daycare centers. There are peanut-free policies adapted to keep the most at-risk kids safe and reduce the chances of anaphylaxis, which can quickly turn into anaphylactic shock, putting them at risk of death.

But as cow’s milk allergies grow, parents need to be aware of how dangerous they can be — especially when milk isn’t the focus of school allergy prevention.

Here’s What to Know About Cow’s Milk Allergies

But the new data shows cow’s milk is now “the most common food allergy in children younger than five years,” and this allergy accounts “for about half of all food allergies in children younger than one.

“An allergy to cow’s milk can present in a variety of ways. This includes wheezing, vomiting, flushed face, hives, digestive problems, and swelling of the mouth, tongue, or throat. According to McMaster Internal Medicine, a milk allergy can escalate to anaphylactic shock, where the allergen can rapidly cause a life-threatening drop in blood pressure.

“Cow’s milk allergy is the most distressing of the food allergies. Many people are unaware that it can cause anaphylaxis that is so severe,” Carla Davis, MD, director of the food allergy program at the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, told WebMD. “People do not think about how much of this is in our food.”

Why Cow’s Milk Allergies Are So Dangerous

It’s a lot harder to spot a milk ingredient in foods than it is peanuts. Unknowingly, kids are put at risk at school because milk and its derivatives are so common. Some kids are allergic to all kinds of milk, not just cows, including goats, sheep, or other mammals. However, in the United Kingdom, cow’s milk is the food allergy most likely to lead to death in school-aged kids, according to Medscape.

The only good news in all of this is that experts say some kids outgrow their allergy to cow’s milk. Parents and their kids need to work with an experienced immunologist to manage their allergen care plan.