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Cow's milk

Doctors routinely misdiagnose cow's milk allergies in babies, survey suggests

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: cow's milk, infant health, food allergies

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(NewsTarget) A survey by formula milk manufacturer SHS International Ltd's Act Against Allergy initiative found that a majority of doctors believe that milk allergy symptoms in babies were being confused with other conditions.

The poll talked to 500 doctors, and nearly 80 percent felt their colleagues were making the misdiagnosis because the symptoms of milk allergies were vague and common, usually consisting of things like skin rashes and diarrhea.

Milk allergies can be very distressing for a baby, and even fatal, but the poll found that many doctors do not know the best treatment for the condition, usually recommending a soy-based formula. Department of Health and British Dietetics Association experts noted that soy milk is rich in compounds called phytoestrogens, which mimic the action of the female hormone oestrogen and could hamper the long-term fertility of infants. Also, babies allergic to cow's milk can often be allergic to soy milk as well, so they should be given special low-allergy or hypoallergenic milk like formulas based on amino acids.

According to the researchers, at least 10,000 babies are allergic to cow's milk in the U.K., but some doctors argue that the condition is actually quite rare. Almost all of the doctors agreed that better information would help make diagnosing the condition in infants much easier, so the SHS taskforce -- made up of pediatric health experts, including some on pediatric gastroenterology -- has developed guidelines for doctors to be published next year.

"If a parent suspects their baby has a milk allergy then they should see their GP who can refer them to a pediatric dietician," said Judith Moore, pediatric dietician and British Dietetics Association spokesperson. "If you take a good medical history then you can pick it up but it can be difficult to diagnose. The symptoms do vary so it can be hard to spot."

Another obstacle is that many parents who do suspect their babies have allergies turn out to be wrong, which can discourage them from checking on symptoms. Unchecked food allergies can stunt infant growth, cause developmental problems, and even cause severe shock and death.

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding babies as much as possible for the first two years of life.

"Consumers need to realize that milk from bovine creatures is not nutritionally compatible with human biology," said Mike Adams, a holistic nutritionist and author of the Honest Food Guide. "Cow's milk is designed to turn a baby calf into an 800-pound creature as quickly as possible, with an emphasis on proteins that most humans can't even digest properly. It's no wonder the majority of humans are in some way allergic to cow's milk."

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