My 9-month-old daughter is allergic to both milk and dust. No one else in the family has allergies. What causes them?

  • Posted by Dr. Jay Gordon

When your daughter was five months old, were you surprised that she couldn’t walk? Of course not! Her legs weren’t coordinated yet. We shouldn’t be surprised if the immune system is also uncoordinated in young children.

If your infant has allergic tendencies, you want to keep her away from “foreign” proteins in her diet for the first 12 months. This means staying away from milk, eggs, and meat. When your pediatrician advises solid foods, start with fruits and vegetables. When the baby is at least seven months old, you can start slowly adding cereals to the diet.

As the child gets older, my advice is to keep her on this same diet, adding a greater variety of fruits, vegetables (including beans), and grain products. Children exposed to high-protein foods, especially during the first year of life, have a greater susceptibility to allergies.

If your child is a toddler and you suspect there are allergy problems with foods such as chicken, dairy, wheat, eggs, or specific fruits or vegetables, you can determine the culprit by removing the suspect food from her diet. For a few days, feed the child only a limited number of fruits and veggies. Then, add in the suspect foods one at a time. This can be as accurate as the allergist’s scratch test. If you give a child some milk and she gets a stomach ache and diarrhea, then stay away from milk.

Milk allergy is the most common allergy I see in my office. Most people aren’t allergic to the lactose in milk. They’re allergic to the protein. That means it doesn’t matter if the milk is nonfat or “lactose-reduced” or that you only give your child a couple of teaspoons on her cereal. It can take only a spoonful of milk to trigger an allergic reaction which may include a runny nose, ear infection, intestinal upset, or a rash. I recommend that your family not drink milk. I consider it to be the number one allergen in our diet.

I would like to emphasize here that we never see allergies to breastmilk. The reason for this is breastmilk is custom-made for the human baby. It fights infection and, if the mother is willing to pay careful attention to her diet while nursing, there should be little or no problem with digestion or gas. Breastmilk doesn’t “awaken” the immune system prematurely. If a child is allergic to cow’s milk, the mother will have to avoid eating dairy products because their amino acid patterns will get into the breastmilk and cause a reaction.

Another culprit is eggs. I see a lot of children who are very sensitive to eggs. Like milk, it’s the protein that causes the problems. I believe that eggs aren’t a good food for anyone because of all the cholesterol, fat, and contaminants.

Since allergies play into one another, the more you can control the better. If your child has an allergy to milk, wheat, dust, and pollen, you may not be able to protect her from dust and pollen. However, you can make her much healthier by eliminating wheat and milk. The good news is that when children eat whole foods emphasizing fruits, vegetables, and grains, you get many fewer allergies, even in families with a history of sensitivity.