Lactose is the naturally occurring sugar that is found in milk and other dairy products. Lactose intolerance is the inability to be able to digest this sugar, and is caused by a deficiency in the enzyme lactase. If you are lactose intolerant then consuming dairy products can lead to digestive problems and discomfort. Luckily however it is not an allergic reaction, and it’s rarely serious.
However, if you think you or someone you know might be lactose intolerant it’s important to consult your doctor. This will ensure you have a proper diagnosis, and can begin adequate treatment. Symptoms of lactose intolerance can include bloating, abdominal pain or discomfort, diarrhoea, wind and nausea, after consuming dairy products.
Lactose intolerance can often be confused with a milk allergy – this is a dangerous mistake. While lactose intolerance can be uncomfortable, it is rarely serious and is not an allergic reaction. If you are allergic to milk, then you may be allergic to any dairy product, and it can be very dangerous.
A milk allergy is an immune reaction to milk or products that contain milk and can cause symptoms such as swelling of lips, rash, itchy skin or difficulty breathing. You should seek urgent medical advice if you suspect you’re having an allergic reaction to a milk or dairy product.
Allergic reactions can also cause Anaphylaxis – a severe and life threatening reaction. That’s why it can be important to know how you can assist in dealing with it if it occurs – as it should always be treated as a medical emergency.
First Aid Treatment for Anaphylaxis – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy