Though the biological process of an allergic reaction is well understood, it is still quite unclear why allergies develop in the first place. In a food allergic reaction, the immune system over-reacts to a food protein that is usually harmless1. In cows’ milk allergy the body reacts to the protein found in cows’ milk.
It is not clearly understood why some children develop these reactions, however rates of food allergy are increasing, particularly in young children1. There are a number of theories as to why this rise is occurring. The most popular explanation is the ‘hygiene hypothesis’2. This theory suggests that due to the cleanliness of the modern world there is less exposure to infection in childhood. With too few infections to fight, the immune system directs inappropriate responses to usually harmless things like food. This theory is still unproven however, and additional research is needed in this area.
Many children with food allergies will have a parent or sibling that suffers from an allergic condition such as eczema, hayfever or asthma1. Most children with food allergies, however, will not have a parent that has a food allergy. This is likely because food allergies are thought to be due to an interaction between the environment and genes3. If a child has a sibling with a food allergy they are at a slightly higher risk of developing a food allergy themselves. The risk, however, is still relatively low. Be sure to mention this to your child’s healthcare professional when they ask about the medical history of your child.
Fortunately, most children will grow out of food allergies like cows’ milk allergy. It is most common in the first 2 to 3 years of life, but then the symptoms often disappear completely as the child grows older.
It is not clearly understood why some children develop these reactions, however rates of food allergy are increasing, particularly in young children
- ASCIA, 2016, Cow’s milk (dairy) allergy Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, viewed 10 May 2016, http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-allergy/cows-milk-dairy-allergy
- Anderson, 2014, Breastfeeding and food sensitivities Australian Breastfeeding Association, viewed 10 May 2016, https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/breastfeeding-and-food-sensitivities-0
- Allergy UK, 2013, Food Allergy in Babies and Children British Allergy Foundation, viewed 14 May 2016, https://www.allergyuk.org/childhood-food-allergy/food-allergy-in-babies-and-children