Overdiagnosis of Milk Allergy in Infancy and New Consensus Recommendations

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HI Allen et al. Clin Exp Allergy 2022; 52: 848-858. https://doi.org/10.1111/cea.14179. Open Access: Detection and management of milk allergy: Delphi consensus study

This study reviewed the topic of milk allergy (both IgE-mediated and non-IgE mediated milk allergy) and provides consensus recommendations from 28 non-conflicted multidisciplinary international experts.

Key points:

  • “Milk allergy diagnosis can be difficult, making the condition vulnerable to overdiagnosis – and formula milk company sponsorship of milk allergy guidelines, their authors and healthcare professional education is thought to contribute to milk allergy overdiagnosis…Prescriptions for specialized formula used by bottle-fed infants with cow’s milk allergy have increased … expected volumes by up to 10-fold.”
  • “Consensus was reached that milk allergy does not need to be considered for changes to colour, frequency or consistency of stool, aversive feeding, occasional spots of blood in stool, nasal or respiratory symptoms, in the absence of a temporal relationship with milk protein ingestion. Exceptions to this were biopsy-proven eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders or protein-losing enteropathy or, in a child ingesting milk protein, faltering growth or daily visible blood in stools”
  • “Participants noted that visible blood in the stool in an exclusively breastfed infant [has] many possible causes including infection and fissures….and the condition is generally of short duration without serious health consequences”

My take: Milk allergy is overdiagnosed in infancy. This guideline supports a more supportive treatment approach. Because breastmilk is hypoallergenic, maternal dietary restriction may be more harmful than helpful in those with mild symptoms (especially if not having trouble with growth or with hypoalbuminemia). Table 1 below lists some of the most important of the 38 consensus recommendations.

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