Can a Baby Formula Allergy Cause a Stuffy Nose?

Formula is a viable option for moms who either can't or choose not to breastfeed. However, most infant formulas are based on cow's milk, to which some babies may have an intolerance or an allergy 1. Untreated allergies can lead to health problems or even potentially fatal anaphylactic reactions. Learning about the signs of milk allergy, including a stuffy or runny nose, can help parents to identify allergies early and get treatment.

Formula Allergy Prevalence

An allergic reaction to formula is often caused by the baby's immune system reacting negatively to the cow's milk protein in it, according to Baby Care Advice 1. Milk allergies are more common in children than adults since their immune systems are not as mature. Baby Care Advice says that milk allergy affects about 1 in 50 babies, but that about half of those children will outgrow the allergy by the time they are 1 or 2 years old 1. Approximately 3/4 of children who have a milk allergy will outgrow it by the time they are 3 or 4.

Signs of Formula Allergy

One sign of an allergy to formula is a runny or stuffy nose. However, there are many other symptoms that might develop. says that symptoms will usually appear within the first few months of life, and they may include:

  • vomiting
  • gagging
  • diarrhea
  • irritability
  • skin rashes

A severe reaction may include hives, wheezing, swelling, bloody diarrhea and itchy bumps on the skin. Boston Children's Hospital notes that symptoms will typically not occur until after the second time that a child is exposed to the allergen.

Diagnosing Formula Allergy

Monitoring your child for symptoms is one of the best ways to help your doctor arrive at a diagnosis for allergy to formula. Keep a log of any unusual symptoms you note, include excessive fussiness or spitting up after eating. Your doctor may suggest an elimination diet, which could include switching to another type of formula. Then, if the old formula is introduced and symptoms appear, your doctor may be able to determine that there is an allergy. Your doctor may also administer an allergy test, such as a blood test or skin prick, or scratch test.

Managing the Allergy

Managing a formula allergy typically involves switching to another type of allergy that does not contain the offending allergic substance. While some babies are allergic to cow's milk protein, other babies are allergic to soy. If your baby cannot have either type of formula, says that you may be able to use a hypoallergenic formula, in which the proteins are broken down in such a way that they are less likely to cause an allergic reaction 3.