SATURDAY, March 19 (HealthDay News) -- Children may not be
outgrowing their allergy to milk as quickly as experts previously
In a study of 244 children with confirmed milk allergy, just
over a third outgrew it within 30 months.
But that finding is in conflict with earlier studies that found
a much higher percentage of children outgrowing the allergy fairly
quickly, said Dr. Scott Sicherer, a pediatrics professor at the
Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, who led the new
"We used to say 85 or 90 percent would outgrow [milk allergies] by the time they are 3 or 4 years old," Sicherer said. But more recent studies, he said, are finding that children may be hanging on to the allergy longer.
Sicherer was to present the new study's findings Saturday in San
Francisco at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy,
Asthma & Immunology.
About 2.5 percent of children younger than 3 years are allergic
to milk, according to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.
The allergy typically appears during the first year of life.
Milk allergy involves an immune system response in which
antibodies react to the offensive milk proteins. It's different,
Sicherer said, from the much more common lactose intolerance, in
which a deficiency in the enzyme lactase makes it difficult to
digest lactose, a sugar found in milk.
For their research, which included another study as well,
Sicherer and his colleagues enrolled more than 500 children, 3 to
15 months old, to evaluate egg and milk allergies. The study
presented at the meeting focused just on those with milk
In all, 244 children were found to be allergic to milk, verified
either by a blood test that measures antibodies known as IgE (which
can react to the milk proteins casein or whey), medical history of
an allergy, a positive skin test or a skin rash after drinking
At the end of the 30-month follow-up, 36.9 percent had outgrown
the allergy. The researchers determined the allergy had resolved
when the child could successfully drink milk without a
Certain factors predicted which children would outgrow it,
Sicherer said. Children with a lower concentration of the IgE
antibodies in the blood test were more likely to outgrow the
allergy, he said, as were those who had less severe dermatitis and
those who had a mild reaction to the skin test.
Although the percent of youngsters who outgrew the allergy to
milk fairly quickly is lower than previously thought, Sicherer
said, there is always hope.
"You can outgrow an allergy at any age," he said. "More than 85 percent of kids eventually outgrow" a milk allergy.
The study was funded by the Consortium of Food Allergy Research,
established through a U.S. National Institutes of Health grant.
Dr. Jeffrey M. Factor, an allergist in West Hartford, Conn., who
is on staff at Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford
and is an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the
University of Connecticut School of Medicine, said that the study
findings are no surprise as they reflect clinical practice.
"Some other recent studies over the past four or five years or thereabouts have suggested that children are not outgrowing milk allergy as early as has been previously believed," Factor said. He reviewed the study findings but was not involved in the research.
"Most do eventually outgrow milk allergy, but it seems that many of them are outgrowing milk allergy in later childhood, even into the second decade of life," said Factor, who has been in practice for about 20 years.
Exactly why is not known. "Food allergies are becoming more
prevalent in general for reasons not clear, and they are becoming
more severe," he said.
The new study findings may serve as a message to parents not to
expect their child to outgrow the milk allergy by the time the
child starts school, as has been suggested. "I think it's important
not to provide overly optimistic numbers to parents that their
child is going to outgrow their milk allergy absolutely by grade
school," Factor said.
Milk allergy symptoms typically appear soon after a child drinks
milk, even within minutes, Sicherer said. These can include skin
rashes that look similar to a mosquito bite, itchy red rashes,
vomiting and wheezing.
The study findings should be considered preliminary because they
were to be presented at a medical meeting and have not been
subjected to the same type of scrutiny given research published in
The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network has more about
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