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Doctors fail to see milk allergy in babies

Doctors are misdiagnosing cows milk allergy symptoms in babies and sometimes recommending inappropriate milk substitutes, according to a recent European survey.

Medical experts in South Africa say these results mimic the South African situation.

Cows milk allergy causes vomiting, diarrhea, wheezing and skin rashes, and is one of the most common food allergies in babies. The condition, which is a reaction to protein in cow's milk is a potentially serious health problem and the Act Against Allergy survey found that up to 78% of doctors surveyed were confusing milk allergy symptoms with other conditions such as gastroenteritis and colic.

The survey reveals that up to four in five doctors could be failing to make a correct diagnosis. When they do get the diagnosis right, more than half may be recommending soy based milk as an alternative - even though routine use of soy-based infant formulas is not recommended due to the high content of phytoestrogens - compounds that mimic the action of the female hormone oestrogen and which could pose a risk to the long-term reproductive health of infants.

To complicate matters even further, infant formula fed to babies commonly contains cow's milk, and milk derivatives such as whey.

Misdiagnosing a milk allergy puts babies at risk of being malnourished and they often fail to thrive. Unchecked, the condition can stunt infant growth and cause developmental problems.

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