I have noticed a significant rise in cow’s milk allergies in recent years, particularly while I was working as a chef. My own father is allergic to cow’s milk, and he inspired me to ditch it for its health benefits years ago.

If I am being completely honest, I used to look at a milk allergy as a second-class allergy.

citizen in comparison to some of the more obviously severe allergens. But after researching the allergy, my mind has definitely changed and I am now aware that milk is a severe allergen that needs to be treated carefully within a kitchen.

So, let’s talk about cow’s milk allergies. It affects over 2% of infants in Ireland, and while many outgrow it, for some, it persists for life. Reactions can range from mild, with symptoms like swollen lips, hives, tingling mouth, and tummy troubles, to severe anaphylaxis, a medical emergency marked by difficulty breathing, swelling of the tongue or throat, coughing, dizziness, or even collapsing.

For non-allergen people, it is hard to get their heads around the fact that their bodies can do this to themselves, but once you appreciate this fact you gain empathy which changes how you look at allergens, especially for a chef.

Confirming a cow’s milk allergy requires consultation with a specialist, who may recommend cutting out dairy from the diet. And if you discover that you or your child do have a cow’s milk allergy, there are plenty of great alternatives for nutritional needs – including soy milk, calcium-enriched rice, oat, or nut milks, and formulas for infants.