Cow’s milk protein allergy is the result of an abnormal immune reaction to one or more proteins in cow’s milk. It has become a significant cause for concern in the pediatric and neonatal fields. The incidence of cow’s milk protein allergy is lower in exclusively breastfed children than in those who receive infant formulas. Early diagnosis and adequate diet management decrease the risk of growth failures in children and other developmental disorders.
Symptoms of Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy
There are no specific symptoms for cow’s milk protein allergy. An allergy usually develops within the first week of introducing cow’s milk to the baby’s diet. Most babies show signs on the skin, such as hives or eczema, or develop gastrointestinal symptoms. Gastrointestinal symptoms include vomiting, blood in the stool, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort. Wheezing, irritability, inconsolable crying, facial swelling, and poor growth can also occur. Some life-threatening complications include anaphylaxis and laryngeal edema.
To determine if a baby is allergic to cow’s milk protein, visit a pediatrician to confirm a diagnosis.
If the baby definitely has a cow’s milk protein allergy, parents should eliminate infant formulas containing cow’s milk from their baby’s diet. In the case of a mild or moderate allergy, hydrolyzed infant formulas or formulas containing amino acids are recommended. But even those are not well tolerated in severe cases of allergy. If a cow’s milk protein allergy is too severe, parents do not have many alternatives left except to determine which infant formula does less damage.
Finding a Solution for Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy
In 2014, scientists conducted a study titled “Safety and Tolerance of a New Extensively Hydrolyzed Rice Protein-Based Formula in the Management of Infants with Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy” to evaluate a new infant formula in which extensively hydrolyzed rice protein is the main ingredient.
They selected forty children who were previously diagnosed with a cow’s milk protein allergy. The infants fed for six months with the new infant formula. The formula’s tolerance was evaluated based on the improvement of allergy symptoms as well as the growth index (weight and height).
Ninety percent of the children tolerated the new infant formula, which significantly decreased allergy symptoms and promoted adequate gains in weight and height for their age.
In general, one of the main complaints of parents is that babies reject hydrolyzed formulas because of their unpleasant, bitter taste. However, some previous studies that evaluated the palatability of different formulas show that soy- and rice-based formulas taste better than hydrolyzed cow’s milk formulas. In this particular study, only three patients withdrew from the study because the parents believed that their infants did not like the taste of the formula.
Besides efficacy, nutritional value, and tolerability, the cost of infant formula is also an important factor. While the cost of infant formulas differs from country to country, overall the cost of extensively hydrolyzed rice-protein formula is significantly less than other hydrolyzed infant formulas.
The rice protein-based formula was well tolerated by infants with a demonstrated cow’s milk protein allergy. It also ensured proper growth. The results suggest that extensively hydrolyzed rice-protein formula is an interesting potential option in terms of efficacy, nutritional value, affordability, acceptance, and tolerance. However, further investigation is needed. Additional studies should include a greater number of subjects, examine the safety of these new formulas, and evaluate their effect on anthropometric growth and development.
So although rice protein-based formulas appear to be a promising alternative for babies with a cow’s milk protein allergy, parents should consult a pediatrician before making a decision about their baby’s food.
Vandenplas, Yvan, Elisabeth De Greef, Bruno Hauser, and Paradice Study Group. “Safety and Tolerance of a New Extensively Hydrolyzed Rice Protein-Based Formula in the Management of Infants with Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy.” European Journal of Pediatrics 173, no. 9 (2014): 1209–1216. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com