Whey Allergy

Overview

Whey allergy – also commonly referred to as milk allergy – can cause certain people to become very ill if milk or milk byproducts are consumed. In those allergic to whey, the body mounts an immune response – like it would to fight infection – when whey is consumed. This reaction can be mild or severe and may occur within minutes or several hours of consumption. Whey can be found in many products. It naturally occurs in milk and may be found in cheeses and even in refined baked goods like bread, crackers and snack cakes.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

In those with a whey allergy, consumption of whey results in the rapid release of histamines into the bloodstream as part of the immune response. These histamines can trigger wheezing and shortness of breath, coughing, restricted airways, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea – which may contain blood – hives or rash, itchy, watery eyes, swelling and low blood pressure. In severe cases, anaphylaxis can occur. This severe allergic reaction is life threatening as it blocks breathing passages.

When whey allergy is suspected, the doctor will begin with a physical exam and medical history. The doctor will want to discuss signs and symptoms and perform a physical exam. If it is difficult to determine the offending food, doctors may try a food diary or elimination diet to determine if milk whey is the culprit. Other common tests can check for whey allergy as well. A skin test, in which small amounts of whey protein are exposed to a pinprick in the skin and a blood test to check for antibodies are common whey allergy tests.

Causes

Whey allergy is caused by a faulty immune system response to milk proteins. Milk contains two main allergy-causing proteins: casein and whey. Those with milk allergy may be allergic to one or both. When the body is exposed to these proteins, the immune system treats these proteins as invaders and sends histamine into the blood system, thus causing allergic reaction. Continue reading for Prevention and Treatment information . . .

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