Milk is divided into two main parts, the watery portion of whey, makes up 20 percent of the proteins found in cow’s milk. Casein or the lumpy white globs seen in sour milk is the other part. It is a common misconception an allergy to cow’s milk and lactose intolerance are the same illness. In fact, they are not-- the two affect different systems in the body. Milk allergy affects the immune system, while lactose intolerance disrupts only the digestive system. However, a few of the milk allergy symptoms are similar to that of lactose intolerance.
Origin of Symptoms
The immune system sees the protein in the whey as a disease, like a virus and attacks it. The problem with most whey allergies is that the reaction is exaggerated. Chemicals are produced in an effect to defend the body against the intruders. It is the body’s reaction to these chemicals that causes whey allergy symptoms. A sufferer can experience the allergy moments after ingesting whey products or several hours later. Each body react differently. In addition, the allergy can affect one or more body systems at a time.
Digestive System Reaction
Like a people with lactose intolerance, milk allergy sufferers experience several unpleasant symptoms within the digestive system. Issues like diarrhea, cramps, bloating, vomiting and nausea are all symptoms of a whey allergy. They can arise immediately after eating the whey in cow’s milk or hours later. While the lactose intolerant can take a supplement to ease digestion, the only way to stop these symptoms in a person with a whey allergy is to stop eating it.
Respiratory System Reaction
A whey allergy shares symptoms with others of the seasonal variety as well. Sneezing, itchy eyes that water, coughing and even a runny nose are all respiratory symptoms of a whey allergy. An asthma attack may also be triggered by the whey allergy. Unlike most seasonal allergies—especially those to common grasses and trees--a whey allergy can be avoided.
Integumentary (Skin) System Reaction
Common allergic reactions to many other products affect the skin much like the whey allergy does. Symptoms like eczema, hives and other rashes may appear alongside other symptoms or alone. Some people also experience swelling around their mouths, accompanied by redness in the area.
Systems in Overdrive
In some cases, the body systems become overloaded with the chemical resulting from the allergy. These people experience a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. The reaction includes swelling inside the mouth, throat and airways so much so that air cannot get to the lungs. If proper emergency drugs, like an epinephrine inject, aren’t administered quickly, the person could die. Another system, the cardiovascular system, is also affected during anaphylaxis. The blood pressure becomes very high because of the other extreme reactions, and often causes dizziness and fainting. Again, drugs must be administered quickly to avoid a fatality.