Milk Allergy versus Lactose Intolerance

When I tell people that Isabella is allergic to milk, I often get the response "Oh, is she lactose intolerant?"  I've never really known how to respond because I haven't understood the difference.

Then I found this cool explanation on the web. To summarise it:

Dairy Allergy

A dairy allergy is an immune system response to the protein in milk. The body reacts to the protein with Immunoglobulin E (IgE). It's affects are hives, swelling, anaphylactic shock and in some cases death.

Lactose Intolerance

People who have LI cannot digest milk sugar, lactose, because they manufacture too small a quantity of the digestive enzyme, lactase. This results in diarrhea, gas, flatulence, bloating and cramps.


The site also talks about protein hypersensitivity. The symptoms are gas and diarrhea as for LI, but they also can cause vomiting or colic. It tends to occur in babies and young children, often after bouts of gastro.

Interestingly, Bella's response to diary includes both:

  • Allergy: hives and facial swelling; and
  • Hypersensitivity: vomiting and stomach cramps

So whilst her skin tests are getting better (the allergy shows up via the skin tests), because it is combined with Hypersensitivity she had more violent reactions. She is due for more testing soon, so it will be interesting to see how it goes.

The sad part about this is that I've had to research this myself to gain an understanding because Bella's ex-specialist didn't explain any of this to us.

This is also a good link. Talks about food sensitivities and allergies. Very informative.


3 responses to “Milk Allergy versus Lactose Intolerance

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