Lactose Intolerance vs Dairy Allergies

Understanding the difference

As dairy allergies can be severe, it is very important to understand the difference between dairy allergies and lactose intolerance. A medical diagnosis and ongoing professional management is essential for a dairy allergy.

Dairy allergies are an immune system response to cow’s milk proteins. Dairy allergies occur in only 4% of the population, primarily in infants and young children.

Key differences between lactose intolerance and dairy allergies

Lactose IntoleranceDairy Allergies
TriggerSmall amounta of dairy can normally be tolerated without symptoms.Even trace amounts of dairy can cause a reaction.
SymptomsSymptoms 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.
ManagementConsumption 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.
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