People with asthma can drink milk too!

Got asthma but want milk? Breathe easy, drink up and rest assured that your three daily serves of dairy foods will not trigger or exacerbate your asthma symptoms.

The myth that people with asthma should avoid milk stems from the misconception that dairy products increase mucus in the airways, thus triggering asthma attacks.

To dispel this myth, Australia's National Asthma Council is reminding people with asthma and their parents or carers that dairy foods do not cause asthma and rarely trigger asthma symptoms and warns that eliminating dairy foods could have adverse consequences.

Associate Professor Mimi Tang, spokesperson for the National Asthma Council and a paediatric allergist and immunologist with Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital said, “There is no clinical evidence that reducing or eliminating dairy products will improve asthma symptoms or control unless there is a clear history of milk allergy.”

“Furthermore, milk does not cause mucus production. When you drink milk, your saliva is temporarily thickened and many people confuse this with mucus.”

Professor Tang added, “Less than 2 per cent of adults and 11 per cent of children with asthma experience asthma symptoms related to food, including dairy products. In these instances, the asthma symptoms are almost always associated with other features of a food allergic reaction such as hives.”

In a clinical trial of 20 patients with asthma (10 believed dairy foods exacerbated their asthma and 10 did not), patients were given a ‘milk challenge’ and both symptoms and lung function tests were recorded before and after challenge. The results showed that none of the patients reported an increase in cough or sputum production following the dairy challenge.

A recent international study indicated that intake of milk and milk products is not associated with an increase of asthma symptoms. Instead, consumption of dairy products was associated with reduced asthma symptoms although it is difficult to know whether this was directly caused by the intake of dairy products or just a chance finding.

So, the National Asthma Council advises people with asthma to continue to consume milk and other dairy products as part of a balanced, nutritious diet.

Dairy Australia’s dietitian Janine Cornel concurred, “The danger of such health myths is that people can miss out on the nutrients their body needs. Dairy foods naturally contain more than 10 essential nutrients including calcium, riboflavin, protein and vitamins A and B12. Studies have found that children who avoid cows’ milk are at greater risk of deficiencies in these nutrients, which can have serious health consequences.

“We are especially concerned about parents reducing dairy foods in their children’s diets. Studies show that 47 per cent of parents have changed their children’s diets because of asthma or a combination of asthma and another condition. Most of these parents chose to eliminate dairy foods and most did not consult their doctor or a dietitian."

Both Prof Tang and Ms Cornel encouraged people with asthma or who have children with asthma to talk to their doctor before making any dietary changes.

For further information, the National Asthma Council has a fact sheet entitled ‘Asthma and food’ available on its website


  1. glenn glenn Singapore says:

    "Dairy Australia’s dietitian"  ???  What kind of impartial advice is that????

  2. sarah sarah United States says:

    Really, so I eliminated milk products from my diet a week ago, and have not had an asthma attach since.... but it can't be the milk.... it must be the

  3. doug doug Australia says:

    Milk causes asthma trust me! it causes asthma big time.

    • Duckie of _ Alex Smyth Duckie of _ Alex Smyth Australia says:

      This is totally my opinion but this milk story thing, I don't belive in it because I have asthma and milk makes it worse every time and I always go to hospital for it....... This makes no sense🤔

  4. Martin Guest Martin Guest United Kingdom says:

    Animal Proteins, whether from meat or dairy, leads to over breathing which in turn will likely bring on an asthma attack. The mucus (or thickening of saliva as the author puts it) is a natural reaction of the body to attempt to limit damage caused by poisons. This alone indicates dairy should not be taken by any human.

  5. Lorrie Moran-Plante Lorrie Moran-Plante United States says:

    I'm so tired of the lies. The ADA is soo big and so powerful that people are kept in the dark about their health. It is true that dairy products have an effect on asthma symptoms. I know because I had asthma, debillitating asthma for forty years. I was on 5 types of meds. I was never told the truth. When I did my own research and changed to a 100% plante based diet my health changed. I am healthier than I have been in my life. It's not about milk causing mucus either it's all about the casien, and most of the medical comm knows it!!! Shame on you. You're right up there with the people that tried to cover up the fact that cigarett smoking contributes to lung cancer! By the way NO ONE needs dairy for calcium! Green leafy veggies contain all the calcium of dairy, and it is more easily utilized by the human body!!

  6. John Rux-Burton John Rux-Burton United Kingdom says:

    When I discovered milk badly affected my asthma, by chance due to a holiday where I chose to drink the soya my partner likes rather than bothering to shop and used marg because the shop had run out of butter I decided a 'blind experiment' was worth doing on my daughter.  Without telling her I made sure dairy was removed from her diet for about 10 days.  Her asthma disappeared.  I think gave her a milk shake.  Following morning, asthma again.  There is no doubt that for the two of us dairy has a profound effect

  7. Heather Kim Heather Kim United States says:

    Of course dairy worsens asthma.  This is truly one of the dumbest things I have ever seen published.  How does this happen?  I work so hard with my pedi patients and their families to make sure that their diets are clean.  Then I come across garbage like this published?  News-Medical needs to take this down.  This "study" had 20 people in it?  Soon more than 20 people will comment on this how cutting dairy helped their asthma symptoms immensely...  Then we can publish it!

  8. Melissa Robbie Melissa Robbie Australia says:

    First they used adults, whereas the evidence is that milk triggered asthma is much commoner in children. Then they carefully excluded anyone who had any skin prick response to any dairy component! Then half the 20 were people picked because they were sure milk didn't affect them! Finally of the 10 people who thought milk affected their asthma, they gave only a single dose of milk and of the 3 who appeared to react, they only did proper further assessment on 1 of them. Incredible to then conclude milk doesn't trigger asthma. Medical journals publish any old rubbish. Such a weak study should never have even received ethics approval to proceed, much less been published. Gross over-interpretation of the findings. They should have done the study with at least 100 children and done a double-blind cross-over study with three serves of dairy vs soy/ day (masked with strong chocolate flavour etc) for a good three weeks each. And they shouldn't be on anti-asthma medication. You can't do a study with extremely weak power to detect a difference then say that a negative result rules out the possibility that Dairy can worsen asthma. All they've shown is that it isn't a really common trigger in Adults sufficient to worsen asthma despite medication (even that it would only be sensitive enough to detect if it was a very strong effect in something like 30-40% of adults).

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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