Parents often indicate their child’s formula in an attempt to diagnose colic in children. While the type of formula can sometimes play a role in colic symptoms, there is a big difference between a milk allergy and a simple lactose intolerance. Understanding the difference between the two can help you when it comes to discussing the baby’s colic with the pediatrician.
Lactose intolerance refers to the inability to digest the sugar present in milk. Very few babies are actually lactose intolerant, and for those who are, treatment is often simply a matter of supplementing the naturally occurring enzymes that are used to break down milk sugar. Colic in children with lactose intolerance is typically due to the abdominal cramps and pain associated with the condition. Premature babies are more likely to have lactose intolerance related colic than full-term babies.
Milk allergies, on the other hand, have nothing to do with the ability to digest milk sugar. Instead, the body has an allergic reaction to proteins in milk, which can be slow onset or immediate, depending on the severity of the allergy. Children with milk allergies often have bloody stools, severe abdominal pain and increased irritability. Other symptoms include hives, rashes, wheezing, vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms can mimic many other conditions and can prove difficult to diagnose in children. Colic in children with milk allergies can often be alleviated once the allergy is addressed and dairy products are avoided.
Milk allergies are far more dangerous than lactose intolerance, on the whole. If you are concerned that your baby’s colic is caused by any of these conditions, you should talk to your baby’s pediatrician as soon as possible. A quick diagnosis can mean quieter nights for you and your baby.