The dairy industry’s battle against a potentially life-threatening allergy is in its sixth week, with an estimated 500,000 people in Australia living with the symptoms of the allergy, which can be triggered by dairy products, such as milk and cheese.
Dairy allergy symptoms can include difficulty swallowing, wheezing, difficulty breathing and a runny nose.
While symptoms can vary, the symptoms can be life-changing.
For the majority of sufferers, their symptoms can last weeks or even months, making it difficult to manage and treat the problem.
The National Dairy Federation has called on all dairy producers to be transparent about the nature of their products and how they respond to dairy allergy.
“All dairy products are a potential cause of dairy allergy,” said NDF’s chief executive David Saperthorpe.
“It is important that consumers know the extent to which dairy products have been tested for the presence of the allergens and when they are safe to eat.”
Dairy allergy is not the only dairy product that can cause the symptoms.
A recent study by the University of Sydney found that the dairy product, butter, can trigger the symptoms in a small number of people, but that the overall risk is low.
“If you are allergic to dairy products and it comes on suddenly and it’s severe, it can be devastating,” said Dr Saperths study co-author, Dr Peter McClellan.
“You really have to understand what is going on in your body and what triggers your symptoms.”
A key finding of the study was that while dairy allergy may not be as severe as other food allergies, it does require a significant amount of medication and intensive treatment to manage, which is why dairy allergy sufferers are often reluctant to seek professional advice.
“A lot of people will just say, ‘I’m not sure, I don’t have time,'” Dr McClellan said.
“And that’s really a mistake.”
In addition to seeking professional advice, the dairy industry is working with industry to educate the public on how to manage dairy allergies.
A number of dairy producers have posted their dairy allergy information on their websites and in public events to encourage people to seek medical advice if they have symptoms.
“We really want to be clear about what’s in our products and the risk of dairy allergies,” Dr Sapers study co‑author Dr Peter McIntyre said.
The Australian Dairy Industry is also working with the NDF to promote a dairy allergy awareness campaign.
Dr Sapperthorpes Dairy allergy study found that about 1 in 5 people have symptoms that can trigger a milk allergy, but the actual risk is very low.
Photo: Supplied Some people may not notice a milk reaction until the symptoms are worse, while others may be more likely to experience a reaction once they are diagnosed with an allergy.
Dr McIntyre also pointed out that some people who do have a reaction may have difficulty accepting milk at all, which could be an indicator of a reaction to a milk product.
“The vast majority of people who have a milk allergic reaction have no symptoms, which means they are not really experiencing milk at this time,” Dr McIntry said.
‘Trying to get better at handling it’ While dairy allergy research has focused on milk, there are other dairy products that can be a trigger, such in milk products that contain the hormone lactose.
“Some people may have a problem with the milk, but not the milk in general,” Dr McCLELLAN said.
For dairy allergy, the most important thing to remember is to take steps to manage symptoms if they occur.
“This is the first time that we have seen a dairy-related dairy allergy in people with a milk or milk-based product, so it’s a very exciting time,” he said.