How can I know if my baby has a milk allergy?
How to Diagnose Allergic Colitis in Babies
All babies go through bouts of fussiness or irritability. But if it seems like your baby cannot be comforted and has gastrointestinal problems, they may have allergic colitis. If your baby has allergic colitis, they're allergic to a protein found in cow’s milk. This protein can then find its way into breast milk if the mother drinks cow’s milk. Pay attention to signs of allergic colitis (like bloody stools, diarrhea, and irritability). Get a full medical examination and talk with the doctor about your baby's diet. Once the doctor diagnoses your baby with mild to moderate or severe allergic colitis, you can talk about dietary changes that will treat the allergy.
Recognizing Signs of Allergic Colitis
Pay attention to gastrointestinal problems.You may notice your baby is very gassy after eating. While gassiness is a common gastrointestinal problem, if your baby is also experiencing diarrhea or vomiting, she may have allergic colitis.
- It's a good idea to keep a journal of how often your baby has experienced diarrhea, gas or vomiting. This can be helpful in making a diagnosis.
Look for bloody stools.Check your baby's diapers for blood. Bloody stools are one of the most common signs of allergic colitis in babies between 2 and 6 weeks old. There may only be a little blood or spotting, but bloody stools could lead to other health complications.
- Know that bloody stools could be a sign of, or lead to, other health problems.
- If your baby is experiencing heavy bleeding, the cause may not be allergic colitis. The doctor will want to check your baby for tears in the perianal area or other issues.
Monitor your baby's behavior.While crying and fussing are normal, recognize when your baby seems irritable. If you think your baby is constantly upset, extremely fussy, or can't be calmed, your baby may have allergic colitis.
- Your baby will probably also have trouble eating or will refuse to eat.
Check your baby for skin rash or nasal congestion.In addition to gastrointestinal problems or bloody stools, your baby might develop common allergic reactions. Look for a skin rash (eczema) or nasal congestion.
- Your baby may have more of these allergic symptoms if their allergic colitis is severe as opposed to a mild case.
Look for allergic colitis in newborns to one-year olds.Allergic colitis can appear in newborn babies and infants through age one. Most babies that develop allergic colitis start showing mild symptoms by the time they're two months old, but they can appear as late as six months old.
- You may realize that your baby's symptoms worsen over time.
Identify risk factors for allergic colitis.If you or the baby's other parent has an allergic disease, your baby has a 30% risk of developing allergic disease as well. If both of you have an allergic disease, your baby has a 60% risk. This means that a baby may be at increased risk of allergic colitis if one or both parents has a medical history of allergic disease.
- About 1% to 2% of all babies have allergic colitis. Other risk factors for colitis include family history of asthma or environmental allergies.
Getting an Accurate Medical Diagnosis
Take your baby to a medical appointment.If you suspect your baby has allergic colitis symptoms or if you notice bloody stools or vomiting, set up a medical appointment with the pediatrician. You'll need to give the doctor your baby's complete medical history (including family history of allergies). If you kept a journal of your baby's symptoms, bring it along.
- The doctor might suggest that you take your baby to see a pediatric gastroenterologist.
Talk with the doctor about your baby's diet.Let the doctor know what your baby is eating. For example, if your baby is formula fed, you should be able to give the exact name of the product you're giving. If you're breastfeeding your baby, the doctor will probably ask what you typically eat. If you've introduced solids, tell the doctor what foods your baby eats and if they've had any allergic reactions to foods.
- The doctor may want you to feed the baby while you're in the office. You may need to bring formula or nurse the baby. This will give the doctor a chance to look for any signs of irritation or discomfort that your baby might have after eating.
Get a physical exam.The doctor should perform a routine wellness check on your baby. The doctor will weigh the baby, check their height and head growth, listen to the heart and lungs, and feel the baby's abdomen. Even if your baby has allergic colitis, the abdomen shouldn't be distended or painful to the touch. The doctor will probably also look for a rash or small tears around the anus that could be causing the bloody stools.
- While there is no diagnostic lab test for allergic colitis, the doctor may want to draw and check your baby's blood to determine blood loss amounts. This can also inform the doctor about protein levels in the blood.
- The doctor may also check stool samples to be sure the baby doesn't have an infection causing bloody stools.
Get a diagnosis of mild to moderate or severe allergic colitis.The doctor may give a diagnosis of mild allergic colitis if your baby does have some bloody stools, but isn't experiencing vomiting or abdominal pain. Your baby will probably be growing at a healthy weight and will have stable protein levels in the blood test. The doctor may diagnose your baby with severe allergic colitis if the baby isn't growing (or is losing weight), has a lot of blood in the stools, or has protein loss according to the blood test.
Talk with the doctor about a treatment plan.Once the doctor has determined if your baby has mild to moderate or severe allergic colitis, the doctor will talk about immediate changes to your baby's diet. Depending on how severe your baby's symptoms are, your baby will need to be reevaluated after a few weeks to monitor progress.
- You should notice an improvement in the baby's symptoms 72 to 96 hours after removing the allergen from your baby's diet.
Video: How to Tell What Allergy Your Baby Has (Baby Health Guru)
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