Background: The present study aimed to estimate the prevalence of adverse reactions to milk, as population-based prevalence estimates based on objective diagnostic procedures are rare.
Methods: Children with parentally reported reactions to milk were selected for further examination from a population-based cohort of 2721 children. At the age of 2½ years, they underwent a stepwise diagnostic procedure that included diet trials at home, skin prick tests, and open and double-blind, placebo-controlled food challenges. A sample of children with symptoms not attributed to milk was selected for assessment of unrecognized reactions.
Results: The estimated point prevalence of cow's milk allergy and cow's milk protein intolerance (CMA/CMPI) in children with parentally perceived reactions at the age of 2½ years was estimated to be 1.1% (CI 0.8–1.6). However, this was an underestimate, as unrecognized reactions were detected. Most reactions were not IgE-mediated. The positive predictive value of a parentally perceived reaction depended on the number of times it had been reported and was good for reactions reported three times (at 12, 18, and 24 months of age).
Conclusions: The present study confirms previous findings that parents overestimate milk as a cause of symptoms in their children; however, it also indicates that unrecognized reactions may be a problem as well.