Home > Kids > Childhood Safety > Food Safety > Can Too Much Milk Cause Allergy?

Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Can Too Much Milk Cause Allergy?

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Shari Nethersole, M.D.

Q: Is it possible to cause an allergy to milk by giving my two-year-old too much?

A: No, allergies do not occur that way. Allergies occur when the body's immune system "reacts" to certain proteins in the food that we eat. The immune system sees the substance as "foreign" and makes specific antibodies to it or has cells that release irritating and inflammatory substances in response to the protein. Thus the amount of the substance causing the allergy generally doesn't matter. If a child is going to be allergic to a particular food, the symptoms will occur with just a small amount of that particular food. The problem you may be confusing allergy with is lactose intolerance. Lactose is the major carbohydrate or sugar in milk, and some people have difficulty digesting it. They have low levels of an enzyme called lactase, which is used to break down the lactose. Symptoms can include bloating, abdominal discomfort, constipation, or diarrhea. A child who has lactose intolerance will have greater symptoms when he drinks more milk or eats more milk products. He might have enough of the enzyme to manage a half a glass of milk each day, but not enough to handle three glasses and a bowl of ice cream.

Despite all the attention given to it, milk allergy is not very common. One to three percent of infants will have it, and most will outgrow it by the time they are two or three years old. The symptoms that can be seen with milk allergy include: diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pains, hives, or a skin rash like eczema, cough and wheezing, and poor growth due to malabsorption. Rarely, a severe reaction called anaphylaxis can occur in which the body goes into shock.

No one is entirely sure why some children have allergies and others don't. There appears to be some genetic component, as food allergies in one family member often indicate that others in the family will have it. Other things such as infections and other illnesses probably play a role in why some children develop an allergic response to a particular food.

More on: Expert Advice

Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


8 Epic Emoji-Themed Crafts, Activities & Recipes
Check out the best emoji crafts, activities, and recipes! They're perfect for an emoji-themed birthday party or anytime you need DIY (and screen-free!) summer activities for kids, tweens, and teens.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme!

10 Free Summer Learning Worksheets
Print these free printables for preschoolers and kindergarteners to help your child's mind stay sharp until September!

Ready for Kindergarten?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks