Cow's milk allergy resources

A recent survey carried out by Allergy UK looked at the experience of having a child with a cow's milk allergy (CMA) from the point of view of both the parents (300 of them) and their GPs (400 of them).

The headline findings were not encouraging:

  • A third of GPs who had diagnosed CMA in the past year estimated the incidence of CMA to be 200 times lower than the true incidence (0.01% or less compared to between 2% - 7.5%)
  • 31% of parents went to A&E due to their child’s CMA symptoms
  • 74% of parents said CMA takes too long to diagnose
  • Their child’s suffering left 44% of mums feeling low or depressed, and 46% of these sought medical advice as a result

Despite the fact that cow's milk allergy normally starts to show symptoms at around six weeks, on average it took 17 weeks and eight visits to a healthcare professional to get a diagnosis. Hardly surprisingly, 68% of the parents surveyed did not think that their healthcare professionals had much of an understanding of CMA.

In terms of cost to the NHS, the eight visits to a healthcare professional and the 31% who went to A&E are, obviously, a significant and quite unnecessary expense. In terms of emotional cost to the families, 21% of mothers reported that they did not feel they could bond properly with their babies while 44% felt depressed as a result of their baby's poor tolerance of cow's milk and as a result consulted healthcare professional about their mood – another expense to the NHS.

The failure to diagnose CMA also reflected on wider family relationships with 51% of parents saying they could not enjoy time out together as a family and 39% saying that they argued more frequently.

Not only were most GPs woefully ignorant about CMA but they could not agree as to who should deal with it, 41% saying that responsibility should lie with primary care while 53% said that they would rather refer on to secondary care (hospital or specialist).


This survey came about as a result of a partnership between Allergy UK and Mead Johnson who have funded an informational website for parents – – which gives a good deal of information about the condition and how to access health healthcare.

Meanwhile, for health professionals in primary care the MAP guidelines offer an excellent resource with a good deal of information and step buy step guidance on both diagnosis and care.

In terms of general reading you might also want to read:

A brief report of a presentation on cow's milk sensitivity (allergy and intolerance) by Dr Trevor Brown, Consultant Paediatric Allergist at the Ulster Hospital, at a recent Anaphylaxis Campaign conference.

A Q & A with Dr Janice Joneja on What is the threshold dose of cow's milk that will provoke a reaction?

Or any of the other articles in the Cow's milk allergy section.


First published January 2015


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