Lactose intolerance is caused by not having enough lactase enzymes to break down the lactose in dairy products during digestion.
Milk allergy is a true food allergy caused by an allergic reaction to the protein in milk.
The following table shows some key differences between the two conditions. It is important that dairy allergies are medically diagnosed and a management plan is prepared with your doctor. Strict avoidance of dairy is usually necessary to reduce the risk of reactions.
Key difference between Lactose Intolerance and Milk Allergies
|Lactose Intolerance||Milk Allergy|
|Age of onset||Can affect any age, but commonly begins later in life.||Most common in babies and infants under 3 years.|
|Age of Resolution||Resolution depends on the underlying cause of the condition. Although babies will often grow out of the condition by about 3-4 months, adults often have the condition for life.||Most children grow out of their milk allergy by school age.|
|Trigger||Small amounts of dairy can normally be tolerated without symptoms.||Even trace amounts of dairy can cause a reaction.|
|Symptoms||Symptoms are related to gastric upset – excess bloating, gas or flatulence, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhoea.||Many symptoms are the same as those for Lactose Intolerance – stomach pain, nausea and diarrhoea. In addition, allergic reactions are systemic (body-wide) and may include an itchy rash or hives, runny nose, swelling of the lips or throat, coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing.|
|Management||Consumption of dairy can be managed with enzyme supplements or reducing intake of dairy. Continued exposure to dairy does not make the condition or symptoms worse.||Allergic reactions can be very severe, even life threatening, and often get worse with continued exposure to the allergen. Strict avoidance of milk proteins is normally recommended.|