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Diagnosing Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy in Children

Creating an environment where children remain healthy and happy is not always within a parent’s control, particularly during their early years. Medical issues may cause a variety of concerns for parents and their children that are both difficult to diagnose and a challenge to treat with ease. Cow’s milk protein allergy, or CMPA, is one of these prevalent health concerns faced by many young children throughout the world. It can neither be predicted or avoided, even among the most aware parents, but there are steps parents can take to ensure their child with CMPA is diagnosed properly and quickly. First, however, it is necessary to understand how common CMPA is, and what cow’s milk protein allergy is and is not.

Throughout the UK, CMPA presents in children up to the age of three more often than most parents realize. Cow’s milk protein allergy affects an estimated 7% of formula-fed infants, and it is one of the most common allergies to impact non-breastfed children. Some infants and young children ultimately outgrow the allergy, but during the time symptoms persist, the health condition can wreak havoc on a child’s digestive system. To ensure your child is safeguarded from these potential issues later in life, recognizing the common warning signs and methods for proper diagnosis is key.

The Warning Signs

Each child is different when it comes to the signs and symptoms they experience when a cow’s milk protein allergy is present. However, there are several warning signs that should give parents pause, prompting them to schedule a visit with their GP. The most common symptoms of CMPA include:

  • Vomiting after feeding
  • Colic
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Wheezing or sore throat
  • Runny nose or watery eyes
  • Persistent cough
  • Itchy mouth
  • Skin rashes or hives
  • Swelling of the lips
  • Bloody stools

When an immediate cow’s milk protein allergy is present, children experience one or more of these symptoms within a few hours after feeding. However, there are instances when infants may have delayed symptoms of CMPA, taking place several days to weeks after introducing cow’s milk. This is due to the body’s inability to properly digest and process certain protein in cow’s milk. When this takes place, the child’s immune system attacks the milk which creates an allergic reaction either immediately or over time. Any of these issues require the intervention of a qualified doctor to help determine the right diagnosis and plan for treatment.

Diagnosing the Issue

CMPA diagnosis is not always a straightforward process, mainly due to the symptoms listed above. Many parents – and doctors – believe that having a colicky baby or one who has an upset stomach after feeding is fairly normal. In some cases, that may be the reality, but for others, CMPA is the culprit. The problems with receiving a proper diagnosis come down to a misunderstanding of the condition among medical professionals, and the lengthy process required for receiving the right diagnosis with a doctor.

Diagnosing cow’s milk protein allergies in small children is complex because there are several steps involved. A group of medical negligence solicitors who handle many misdiagnosis cases each year in the UK explains that a proper diagnosis requires a combination of eliminating other potential medical issues while also gathering an in-depth family medical history. Ruling out other problems that may be creating the symptoms experienced by the child takes time, and in some cases, an incorrect diagnosis is initially received. For some parents, offering up a complete family medical history is not an easy task, which leaves the doctor without much to go on aside from vague symptoms. When this takes place, parents may be put on a path toward eliminating symptoms and discomfort that do not address the true underlying issue. A misdiagnosis that is left unidentified and untreated can lead to severe health issues that linger throughout a child’s adolescent and adult life.

It is necessary for parents who believe their child has a cow’s milk protein allergy to follow up with their doctor when symptoms persist. This may mean seeking out a second opinion or requesting a referral to a specialist pediatrician who has experience in identifying and treating the condition. The good news is that there are treatment options available when a small child has CMPA that can reduce the chance of further health issues.

Alternatives for Children

When a cow’s milk protein allergy is correctly identified, parents can take action to reduce and ultimately eliminate a child’s symptoms. The most common path toward treatment is the replacement of cow’s milk with other viable alternatives. Many parents try out several options for cow’s milk alternatives before finding the right fit for their child, including rice milk, oat milk, and hemp milk. It is important to note that many milk alternatives do not have the same amount of protein or calories as cow’s milk, making it crucial to work with the doctor to develop a holistic treatment plan to ensures the child receives the nutrients he or she needs.

Living with cow’s milk protein allergy is often a temporary experience for a young child, but the discomfort that comes with common symptoms of CMPA can be devastating for both child and parents. Fortunately, working directly with your doctor to determine the right diagnosis early on, following closely by the right treatment plan can help ease CMPA issues quickly.

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