Colic In Babies:
The Difference between Milk Allergy and Lactose Intolerance.
Parents often suspect sensitivities or allergies to formula as a first-guess when determining why their baby is so fussy. In an effort to diagnose colic in infants, any number of potential culprits may be to blame. While the type of formula may sometimes play a role in colicky symptoms, there is a big difference between a milk allergy and simple lactose intolerance.
Understanding the difference between the two can help you when it comes to discussing your infant’s colic with the pediatrician. Fortunately, there are treatments available for both conditions that can allow your baby to grow and thrive, and that will minimize or eliminate any fussiness associated with these conditions.
Lactose intolerance refers to the inability to digest the sugar found in milk. This can most often be traced to an underproduction of lactase, the enzyme used to break down milk sugars. In immature digestive systems, this may sometimes be a problem. However, very few babies are actually lactose intolerant, and for those that are, treatment is often simply a matter of supplementing the naturally occurring enzymes which are used to break down the milk sugar.
Colic in babies with lactose intolerance is typically due to the abdominal cramps and pain associated with the undigested milk sugars passing to the intestines, where bacteria consume them and produce gassiness, bloating, and diarrhea. Premature babies are more likely to have lactose intolerance related colic versus full-term babies.
Milk allergies, on the other hand, have nothing to do with the ability to digest milk sugar. Instead, the body has an allergic reaction to the protein in milk, which may be slow onset, or immediate onset depending upon the severity of the allergy.
In an allergic reaction, the body perceives these milk proteins as a danger to your baby’s health, and the body’s physical response to this perceived threat can in turn cause its own problems and difficulties. Babies with milk allergies often have bloody stools, severe abdominal pain, and increased irritability. Other symptoms include hives, rashes, wheezing, vomiting, and diarrhea.
These symptoms can mimic many other conditions, and can sometimes make milk allergies difficult to diagnose at first. Colic in babies with milk allergies can often be alleviated once the allergy is addressed and milk products are avoided. While you may be tempted to switch your baby to soy formula in order to combat a perceived cow’s milk allergy, the truth is that in babies with this type of allergic response, soy protein may cause a similar reaction to cow’s milk.
The best option for any suspected allergy is to speak with a qualified pediatrician in order to get a definitive diagnosis. If it turns out that your baby does have a milk allergy, your pediatrician can recommend alternative formulas that will not make the condition worse.
Milk allergies are far more dangerous than lactose intolerance, overall. Especially in those instances where allergies cause difficulty breathing, it is possible for the condition to be life-threatening if left untreated. Any unusual symptoms should be reported directly to your baby’s pediatrician, so that tests can be performed to find the true cause as soon as possible.
If you are concerned that your baby’s colic is being caused by either of these conditions, you should speak with your child’s pediatrician as soon as possible. A swift diagnosis may mean more peaceful nights for you and your baby.