How to Identify the Difference Between Milk Allergy and Lactose Intolerance and How to Deal with?

Jeannette | Posted on April 8, 2022 
Difference Between Milk Allergy and Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance and milk fat allergy are sometimes used interchangeably and thus possess confusion regarding the difference between milk allergy and lactose intolerance, although they really represent two separate digestive issues, one of which is more severe than the other. Lactose intolerance is attributed to a lack of the lactase enzyme, which is required for the breakdown of lactose, the sugar present in dairy foods. Milk fat allergy is a real food allergy that is triggered by an allergic response to the protein found in milk.

Lactose intolerance is well-known among most Americans, and for good reason: it affects around 36% of the US population and around 68% of the global population. Milk allergy generally manifests itself early in childhood. Lactose intolerance is much more frequent, develops more slowly, and can occur at any age.

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How to differentiate between milk allergy and lactose intolerance: signs & symptoms

Lactose intolerance could be inherited or triggered by small intestine damage caused by a virus or bacteria. It is also pretty widespread, with certain groups having a higher prevalence. Lactose intolerance affects around 80 percent of African-Americans, and it is also highly frequent among Asians and Native Americans. It is also worth noting that lactose intolerance worsens with age and is extremely frequent among the elderly. Lactose intolerance is estimated to affect Thirty to Fifty million Americans.

Lactose intolerance symptoms usually appear within half an hour or two hours after consuming milk or a dairy product. Symptoms might include:

  • Stomach discomfort;
  • Gas;
  • Bloating;
  • Nausea or vomiting

Milk fat allergies are most commonly associated with cow’s milk, but you may even be allergic to certain other forms of milk, such as soy. Milk fat allergy is more frequent in newborns and children, but it can occur at any age. Milk allergy is by far the most prevalent food allergy in adolescents, affecting more than 2% of those under the age of three. By the age of five, many children have outgrown milk allergies.

Milk allergies might manifest themselves within minutes or over a period of many hours. Symptoms might include:

  • Stomach ache;
  • Nausea;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Rashes on the skin;
  • Lips or throat swelling;
  • Breathing difficulties

Lactose intolerance is often separated from milk fat allergy by a few serious symptoms and a person’s history of dairy-related complications, although doctors are not always able to tell the difference straight once. Your doctor may urge you to maintain a food diary. If you remain uncertain, there are several laboratory tests available including lactose tests that can aid make the diagnosis.

Among the tests are:

Test for hydrogen breath. Lactose that has not been digested releases a lot of hydrogen gas in your breathing. A Lactose intolerance test can be diagnosed by detecting this hydrogen after drinking a lactose-containing beverage.

The acidity of the feces. Lactose that has not been digested increases the quantity of acid in the feces. This test may be used by doctors to identify lactose intolerance in youngsters.

Testing for food allergies. If your doctor believes you have a milk allergy, you may be referred to an allergist to carry out skin testing or have a sample of blood obtained for allergy testing at a laboratory.

Can you consume dairy if you have lactose intolerance or a milk allergy? Management and treatment

Most dairy products should be avoided or limited if you have one of these illnesses. However, it is critical to ensure that you are receiving adequate calcium. You may be able to handle tiny quantities of dairy if you do have lactose intolerance. You can experiment with hard cheeses and yogurt products, which are low in lactose as compared to milk. There are a number of dairy-free calcium-rich foods, such as green leafy vegetables. If you are allergic to milk, you should read the packaging containing labels to avoid items containing any dairy like lactulose, whey, etc.

Someone with lactose intolerance, on the other hand, may opt to continue consuming dairy products. They could be able to have limited amounts of dairy at one time, or they may take lactase pills, which aid the body in breaking down lactose.

Dairy products are considered necessary for good health by many Americans, and the United States Department of Agriculture advises three cups of cow’s milk each day for Americans over the age of nine. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, milk may be safely skipped, and the nutrients found in milk products can all be acquired from other meals.

See Also: How Fragrance Allergies Could Affect Your Health and its Management


Milk allergy and lactose intolerance are different terminologies and both are treatable with minor dietary changes. Breastfeeding appears to minimize the incidence of allergies, although it should be noted that it may not be possible for mothers to breastfeed. Individuals with milk allergies have a number of options; hypoallergic formulas containing hydrolyzed proteins are safe to drink and are less likely to trigger an allergic reaction. Soy-based formulas are another option, but the problem is that soy can also cause allergies.

Consult the team of experts at Family Medicine Austin today if you or your child are experiencing symptoms relevant to milk allergy or lactose intolerance as explained in this article how these two are identified differently. Our doctors can evaluate the condition and guide you on how to eliminate dairy while still keeping adequate nutrition, which is significant regardless of age.

Lactose can be controlled with dietary changes and lactase enzyme supplements. These products are widely accessible in supermarkets and are just as nutritious as conventional milk and dairy products. Alternative milk nutrients sources, such as calcium and vitamin A, include salmon, broccoli and green vegetables, oranges, almonds, beans, and items with added calcium labeling.

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