I am allergic to dairy products, so is my daughter. These days it’s a well known allergy and it’s easy to avoid eating anything with dairy in, L is much luckier than I was growing up and will never have to know what it’s like to miss out on things other take for granted – like ice cream. Dairy allergy might be very common but the lack of awareness and understanding bugs me no end.
You’d think that saying you can’t have any dairy products would set off a chain of thoughts in people’s heads and there would be an automatic link to all dairy products in their memories. You’d be wrong. I’ve talked to people about L not being able to have milk and then been asked if she wants a yoghurt, at which point I stare at them blankly for a moment wondering how to answer politely.
Thankfully L ‘only’ gets an ezcema flare up, stomach upset and hives on contact or ingestion, I don’t have to worry about anaphylaxis. I have anti-histamine in the house and in the car which she needs to take if she comes into contact with anything dairy, but her world is pretty well controlled. As for me I’m very lucky and can just take an anti-histamine and I’m limited to the ezcema bit. Avoidance is always the best option with allergies though.
So what products are dairy products actually in? Bloody everything, it’s a total pain in the backside – especially if you’re a vegetarian, which I am, because nobody appears to understand that vegetarians don’t live on cheese. But more on that in a later blog.
Dairy products are (we’ll start with the obvious first) milk, cheese, yoghurt, ice cream, chocolate, cream, creamy sauces on food, cheesecake, buttercream (frosting), most bought icing, most decorations that kids love putting on icing (yes really – I have yet to work out why), store-bought cakes, lots of crackers, chocolate, pink wafer biscuits and all kids biscuits with icing or otherwise, a large number of sweeteners (no idea why), soup (really, at what point do you need milk in tomato soup?!!), in fact it is in so many things that it becomes easier to just read the labels on anything you’ve not made yourself because anything which contains something coming from a cow, goat or sheep is a no-go.
Fortunately, because the part of the product which causes the allergy breaks down at high heat levels (i.e. through the baking process), bread is fine even though it contains small amounts of dairy. There’s the free-from range in most supermarkets, and there’s some brilliant stuff there now. But it’s not all dairy-free. Even in the free-from ranges there are some weird dairy additions. In a range which sells dairy free chocolate they still feel the need to add milk-chocolate coating to some products. I fail to understand their logic.
There is a big confusion around the difference between intolerance and allergy as well – because both conditions require avoidance. With dairy it’s reasonably simple – intolerance is more likely to be related to the sugars in milk (lactose) and allergy is more likely to be related to the protein (caesin in particular I think, but whey may be a factor as well). Lactose free products are great for intolerance but no good at all for allergies, the reaction is the same as the protein is stil present. Crucially, intolerance is not life-threatening, allergy can be.
So, we are a soya household, and L is thriving on it. A number of well-meaning blogs and sites will profess that soya and dairy allergies go hand-in-hand. This isn’t the case at all, if you’re unfortunate enough to have both allergies then my sympathies, but they’re not linked medically at all. L has a different soya milk to me, one specifically created for growing children, which she glugs down as much of as she can get. She’ll drink that for a few more years yet until she moves to the ‘grown-up version’.