Milk Food Challenge: Bad News, Good News

Thanks to everyone for your support and advice. Our son’s food challenge for milk was held yesterday at a nearby hospital. We had mixed results, but we’re choosing to focus on the good news, including the small changes we’ll be making to our son’s diet.

Unfortunately, the little guy had an allergic reaction to milk. While this was uncomfortable for him—his face, neck, stomach and back became and red and covered in itchy hives—a small dose of antihistamine eventually cleared up his reaction.

Now for the good news… During the food challenge, our son consumed a relatively large quantity of milk: approximately 280 mL. While he experienced an allergic reaction, it did not occur until late into the test. Therefore, our allergist wants us to begin introducing a very small amount of cow’s milk every day for the next month, and to continue increasing it over time. If all goes well, we’ll repeat the food challenge in one year.

Our Morning at the Hospital

For those looking for a more detailed account of our son’s food challenge for milk, here’s a breakdown of our morning:

A gloomy morning drive on the way to Vevey

A gloomy morning drive to the hospital

7:55 AM – Our son vomits in his carseat about a block or two from the hospital! It sounds like I’m making this up, doesn’t it? He only had water to drink that morning. I handed him a water bottle when we left home, and he may have had too much on an empty stomach? At this point, I thought our allergist would reschedule the test. You have to be healthy for a food challenge. No sick kids allowed.

8:05 AM – We arrived a little late. I explained my son’s vomiting to the nurse and doctor. They checked him out, and he seemed fine. The test is still on!

My son began the food challenge with a small dose of cold milk. About 10-15 minutes later, we noticed two small red patches below his bottom lip.

I mistakenly thought the test would be stopped, but we kept going. Our allergist said that the redness could indicate a contact reaction and not an allergic reaction. As such, the test should continue.

So, he received another larger dose of cold milk, and then three doses of petit suisse with fruit. After he finished his final dose, the red patches remained around his mouth where he had contact with the milk.

A potential hive also appeared on his stomach. He has such sensitive skin, red patches are not uncommon. It was difficult knowing for sure whether it was connected to the milk.

The food challenge menu: cow’s milk and petit suisse

The food challenge menu: cow’s milk and petit suisse

To clear up any uncertainty, our allergist recommended we give our son another large dose of milk—an entire pot of petit suisse (50 mL). He gladly gobbled it up. I felt very uncomfortable feeding him so much, but hopeful at the same time.

11:15 AM – I noticed a more pronounced hive on my son’s stomach. Not long after, he started scratching around his armpit. Then, his entire stomach broke out in red patches and a few raised hives. His back started in next. At some point, his ears turned bright red. The red patches around his face became more pronounced.

Red patches and hives on our son’s back

Red patches and hives on our son’s back

After chasing around all morning, at this point in the test our little guy was uncomfortable and happy to lie down. When the allergist asked if he was okay, he quietly said, “No.” The nurse gave him an antihistamine, and we waited another hour before the redness finally cleared up.

Test Results and Next Steps

We are so thankful he did not have an anaphylactic reaction. When I asked, our allergist said she could not rule out the possibility of anaphylaxis for our son. We still need to keep EpiPens (epinephrine auto-injectors) on hand at all times, just in case.

The good news is that because his reaction did not occur until late in the test, after he had consumed a relatively large dose of milk, our allergist said we could start introducing a daily dose of milk at home. For the next month, and every day, he can have either:

  • 10 mL (2 teaspoons) of cow’s milk;
  • 4 grams of petit suisse; OR
  • 10 grams of yogurt.

He can also have real butter on bread or in vegetables, as butter apparently contains a small amount of milk protein (see the description for “Dairy Butter” from Go Dairy-Free). In addition, product labels that read “may contain traces of milk” are now okay.

12:45 PM – We strapped everyone into the car and drove home. The boys slept in the backseat.

Driving back home, the sun breaking through the clouds over the lake

Driving back home, the sun breaking through the clouds over the lake

Today, my son will have 2 teaspoons of cow’s milk for breakfast. While it’s not an omelet with cheese just yet, I will rejoice in this small victory. Bon week-end everyone, and thanks again for your support.


6 thoughts on “Milk Food Challenge: Bad News, Good News

  1. inastateofmotion says:

    You’re right, that is good news and bad news. It sounds like it went well overall, but I’m sure you had a hard time watching him grow uncomfortable, I imagine you were worried!

    • dairyfreeswitzerland says:

      Hi there! Yes, it was a crazy morning… Roller coaster of emotions, especially because we never knew if things would all of a sudden get worse. Along with the hives, the little guy also started sneezing a lot and had a runny nose, so it seemed like something else internal was happening too. Luckily, his breathing, heart rate, blood pressure never changed. So much to be thankful for!

  2. Food Retro says:

    Hi Heddi, I was just reading about your experience with your son. I’m sorry he was itchy, but it’s wonderful if they think you can gradually reintroduce. My son is in a very similar boat: allergies to milk, nuts and peanuts. We too, have to carry around an epi-pen, though I have been lucky that we’ve never had a cause to use it.

    I am surprised that they went straight to liquid milk and yogurts for your test. Our doctor wanted to do what he called a baked good challenge (like milk in a cookie), and I had my heart broken a few weeks ago when they told me that they wouldn’t do the challenge on my son cause his IgE levels tested too high, even though we had an accidental exposure where he ate a muffin made with milk and had no reaction.

    Did your doctor require a blood test of your son before they would do the challenge?

    • dairyfreeswitzerland says:

      Thanks for visiting my blog! I’m so glad you’ve never needed to use an EpiPen with your son. Yes, I was surprised too about going straight to cold cow’s milk. It seems like baked milk challenges are less common here, but I’m trying to learn more. We had blood and skin tests for milk, and the results were such that our allergists thought we could proceed with a food challenge. We try to stay positive and always prepare ourselves for whatever could happen, but it’s not always easy to do. Hope you get some good news soon! -Heddi

  3. Lauren Shane says:

    Hi! I just came across your blog and I too have a child (5 year old daughter) who is allergic to cow’s milk protein. She also gets those ‘contact reactions’ when someone touches her or when we kiss her with milk on our lips. That is amazing that he was able to drink that much milk! I hope we’ll get to that point someday. Good luck to him and you.

    • dairyfreeswitzerland says:

      Thanks, Lauren. Our allergist initially thought our son had a contact reaction and not a true allergy, but the final large dose of petit suisse showed us otherwise–it’s still a true food allergy. I hope you get some good news in the near future! Best of luck to you and your daughter. It’s definitely a challenge being patient through all this sometimes. So helpful hearing from others going through the same thing. -Heddi

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