Q. Is it safe for my child with milk allergies to have goat’s milk or goat’s cheese?
Dr. Hemant Sharma: This is a great question, and one that many parents of children with cow’s milk allergy have as they search for a suitable substitute for cow’s milk. Unfortunately, because goat’s milk protein is similar in structure to cow’s milk protein, more than 90 percent of the time, the immune system will mistake the two and cause a reaction to goat’s milk or goat’s cheese in someone with a cow’s milk allergy. So goat’s milk is not a safe alternative to cow’s milk, and for the same reason, neither are sheep’s milk nor buffalo’s milk.
You can discuss with your child’s allergist what might be an acceptable cow’s milk substitute. An option for an infant would be an extensively hydrolyzed, cow’s milk-based formula, in which the cow’s milk protein is extensively broken down, making it less recognizable by the immune system and less likely to cause a reaction. Since these formulas are also good sources of nutrients, many allergists will recommend children on restricted diets remain on them beyond the age of one year.
Once ready to wean from a formula, options at that point might include soy milk or rice milk, assuming your child does not also have allergies to those foods. To be sure that all nutritional requirements are being met, it definitely is a good idea to discuss your options with your child’s allergist or a dietitian.
Dr. Sharma is an allergist, clinical researcher and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics. He is Associate Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C. and Director of the Food Allergy Program. He is also the site director for the National Institutes of Health Allergy and Immunology fellowship program. He writes “The Food Allergy Experts” column in the American Edition of Allergic Living magazine. Questions submitted below will be considered for answer in the magazine.