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Doctors' breakthrough on spotting symptoms of child milk allergy

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 25/08/2017 Ross Lydall
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Children who suffer from cow’s milk allergy could benefit from better treatment after a breakthrough in diagnosing the painful condition.

Experts hope new guidance for GPs will transform the experience of thousands of families unable to establish what is causing them to have a “miserable baby”.

The UK has one of the highest rates of child intolerance to cow’s milk in Europe, affecting about two per cent of infants up to the age of four.

About half have the non-IgE, or “delayed”, allergy strain. This is difficult to spot as its symptoms — eczema, reflux, colic and stomach problems — can be confused with other conditions.

This is in contrast to IgE milk allergy, which results in symptoms including hives and swelling within minutes of consuming milk, making it easier to diagnose.

Dr Adam Fox, consultant children’s allergist at Evelina London children’s hospital and senior author of the new guidelines, said: “Non-IgE milk allergy is typically not well recognised or managed.

“The iMAP [international milk allergy in primary care] guidance can help primary care physicians to correctly diagnose, manage and follow up patients, alleviating their symptoms. 

“It explains which symptoms doctors should consider and the steps they should take if milk allergy is suspected.

“GPs may think that a patient can have an allergy test for milk but that only works for IgE milk allergy.”

He added the advice should have a big impact on children worldwide.

Dr Fox, also a reader in paediatric allergy at King’s College London, said: “Even though most infants grow out of milk allergy by age two or three, an early diagnosis means that instead of having a miserable baby their symptoms can be minimised which has a positive effect on the whole family.”

The advice is published in the journal Clinical and Translational Allergy.

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