What is the Difference Between Lactose Intolerance and Milk Allergy?

Lactose intolerance should not be confused with milk allergy. Those with lactose intolerance can continue to include dairy products in their diet.

Lactose intolerance should not be confused with milk allergy, which is much less common. Milk allergy is a sensitivity to the protein in milk, not lactose (a carbohydrate), and occurs most often in infants. Sensitivity to cow’s milk protein is higher in early years because of the immaturity of the digestive and immune systems. An estimated 0.5% to 3% of infants at age 1 experience cow’s milk allergy (1).  It usually disappears by 2 years of age but in a few cases may continue or appear later in life. By the age of five, 80% of children outgrow milk allergies (2).

Dairy exclusion can increase risk of disease like osteoporosis if adequate nutrients are not replaced or supplemented (3). It is important for individuals that are dealing with a lactose intolerance, as opposed to a dairy allergy, to continue to include milk and alternatives in their diet.

  1. Flom, JD, Sicherer SH. Epidemiology of Cow Milk Allergy, (2019) Nutrients 11(5):1051. doi:10.3390/nu11051051
  2. Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. Cow’s milk(dairy) allergy, (2019). https://www.allergy.org.au/images/pcc/ASCIA_PCC_Cows_milk_dairy_allergy_2019.pdf
  3. Suchy FJ, Brannon PM, Carpenter TO, Fernandez JR, Gilsanz V, Gould JB, Hall K, Hui SL, Lupton J, Mennella J, Miller NJ, Osganian SK, Sellmeyer DE, Wolf MA. NIH Consensus Development Conference Statement: Lactose Intolerance and Health. NIH Consens State Sci Statements. 2010 Feb 22-24; 27(2): 1-27.
About BC Dairy

BC Dairy is a not-for-profit organization representing BC’s dairy farmers.