Soy milk can be consumed by people who cannot drink cow’s milk due to lactose intolerance. However, soy milk can also cause allergic reactions in some individuals. In fact, an allergy to soy products is one of the most common food allergies in the world. Occasionally, it can also cause a life-threatening condition, called ‘anaphylaxis’.
All types of allergies are caused by a hyperactive immune system, which recognizes some harmless substances as foreign invaders. Any substance that triggers a hypersensitive immune reaction or an allergic reaction is called an allergen. In case of soy milk allergy, the allergen is the protein found in soy milk. This protein is identified by the immune system as a harmful substance, for which it stimulates the production of antibodies (IgE antibodies), in order to destroy or neutralize the protein.
After this, whenever soy milk is ingested, the antibodies recognize the specific protein, and trigger the immune system to release histamine and other chemicals into the bloodstream. These chemicals are responsible for producing the symptoms associated with an allergic reaction. Food allergies are often observed to run in families. However, it does not mean that an individual is going to develop an allergy to soy milk, just because a member of his or her family has soy milk allergy. But such an individual can have a higher risk of developing soy or any other types of allergies.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of this allergy can be mild or severe. The signs and symptoms that are more commonly observed in this condition are:
- A runny nose and itchy eyes
- A sudden outbreak of acne
- Skin rash or hives
- Nasal congestion
- Abdominal Pain
- Atopic dermatitis
- Tingling in mouth and throat
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swelling of the face, mouth, lips, and other parts of the body
- Shortness of breath
In rare cases, the allergic reaction can lead to a serious condition, known as anaphylaxis, which can produce the following symptoms:
- Constriction of the airways
- Swelling of the throat
- A significant drop in blood pressure
- Rapid pulse
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Loss of consciousness
Apart from these, soy milk allergy in infants can cause colic and irritability. As a result, the affected child can cry continuously without any apparent reason. The child may also appear to be in pain, and look quite unhappy.
Diagnosis and Treatment
An allergy to soy or soy milk is usually diagnosed with the help of skin and blood tests. As far as the treatment is concerned, the best treatment option for any kind of allergy is to avoid the particular allergen. However, medications are often required to alleviate the symptoms, if you happen to develop an allergic reaction. Physicians usually recommend antihistamines to reduce the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction. A severe allergic reaction on the other hand, can require the administration of epinephrine.
If you happen to observe any of the aforementioned symptoms of an allergic reaction, then be sure to inform your physician as soon as possible. The best way to prevent this allergy in the future is to avoid soy milk and any product that contains it. But sometimes, you might come in contact with this food and develop a severe allergic reaction, despite taking all possible measures to avoid it. To prevent such a situation, you can talk to your physician about carrying an injection of epinephrine with you.