19 answers

Milk Allergy - Coughing at Night

I switched my son over to whole milk in November when he turned 1. He was on Soy Formula and we had to switch over slowly to make sure he was not allergic. He ended up with no issues in the beginning but since I can recall he has been coughing at night every since we switched him to Milk. He had a cold in the beginning so I never associated it with milk but he now has been coughing every night for over a month and wakes himself up everynight. On Sunday he went to bed around 6:30 and woke up coughing around 9:30 and ended up throwing up milk all over. He threw up one more time but it was more watery and I stopped giving him milk that night. He did not have milk yesterday or today and he coughed a little bit last night but not bad at all. Just seeing if anyone has dealt with anything like this. I called the doctor and the nurse said it sounds like his cough may be lingering. I am gonna take him in so i can get a piece of mind.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks for all the advice from everyone. I took my son to the doctor on Friday and his lungs are clear, no fever but he had a really bad ear infection in his left ear. He has not acted like he's had an ear infection and he had one in this ear about 3 months ago and it cleared up but the doctor said that it may be the start of a new one or one that hasn't quite cleared up yet. And he had a lot of post nausal drip. So right now he is on medicine plus I started to give him some mucinex and it seems like that is helping. He is still coughing but it sounds more like a flemmy cough when they start to clear up. So I am taking him back in a couple weeks and i started back on the milk. not sure really if the ear infection and just little colds going back and fourth from November has just been there or what. I may try soy milk just to see if that makes a different. I don't know anymore. Just waiting to this ear thing clears up and see what happens.

Featured Answers

Try soy or goat milk for a while and see if it makes a difference. If not, it could be a winter cold plus the nasty stomach bug that's been going around since Thanksgiving. Could be the dry air - get a humidifier in his room ASAP. Could be a wheat allergy (this means cutting out A LOT of foods so go to this possibility as a last resort).
Hope he's feeling better soon!

More Answers

Hi L. -

My son has had this same problem on and off for many months. He was coughing terribly at night and then would end up throwing up all over his crib. Our pediatrician finally diagnosed him with asthma. It always seems to be triggered by a cold and then the coughing would linger and linger. She said that the coughing and vomitting at night are classic asthma symptoms. She put him on an antibiotic (zythromax) and gave us an inhaler to use for him and he has been doing great!!! No more coughing at night! (We also thought it was a dairy allergy at first).


If he is only coughing at night then it is NOT a milk allergy. If your child had a milk allergy symptoms would be present throughout the day. Also, milk allergy is very different than intolerance. Allergies can be fatal! I know this because my daughter is severely allergic to dairy and egg. Allergy symptoms however can increase over time if it is a true allergy. My daughter (18 months old) is currently getting over a cough she got around Christmas from her cousin. She too has coughed her way through several nights and a few times gagged on the phlem and threw up. Kinda gross but it does happen. I would suggest avoiding milk until the cold clears up as milk has a tendency to create more phlem. When you start milk again I would keep an eye on his reactions (hives, eczema, vomiting). If you are concerned ask your son's ped for a referral to an allergist. My daughter is on organic rice milk and actually likes it alot so that could be an option too for you.
Hope this helps :)

I agree with many of the posters above but I would add that it is not necessarily true that if it is an allergy, the symptoms would be present during the day. My kids had a lot more trouble with congestion due to allergies at night. It's for the same reason that a cold seems worse at night, for adults or kids - when you're lying down it's harder for your system to drain away mucus and fluid.


Milk does encourage mucas to continue producing, which obviously causes coughing. I always have my daughter drink plenty of water after she is done with her milk for the day to rinse it down.

Another thing to consider is allergys, not necessarily to milk. I give my daughter one loratine (SP) (generic claritin) a day, and that stops all symptoms, including coughing at night.

good luck!


coughing at night may be a sign of gastroesphageal reflux, especially if it is chronic (over 4 weeks). A typical cold/cough may last 2-3 weeks. A common sign of food intolerance or allergy is reflux. Hives or rash may be present, but not always the case. Sometimes it may be difficult to prove or test for the allergy (skin testing). So elimatinating the food for 2 weeks and monitoring the response may be the best way you can sort this issue out.

If you toddler had problems in the past as an infant, such as colic, eczema, GERD, or there is a family history of allergy, asthma, or eczema, your toddler is definatley at risk for food allergies or intolerance. Milk allergy is common.

You may try rice milk or soy milk as a substitute in the meantime.

Sarah S (mother of two allergic children)

Milk produces mucus. This could be why. So many parrents are quick to use milk, as I was, but in both my girls they couldn't tolerate it till they got closer to 2. I was nursing them. Try soy milk, or no milk at all.... water is great for them. Soy can produce allergies too, so beware.

Could be reflux, allergies, asthma, or combination...or just coincidental and it's a virus. It is possible to have a milk allergy and only respond at night. The milk allergy part can be causing reflux. Is he only getting milk at night? Other symptoms? when the vomiting starts, is it always 2 hrs after? Has it happened more than once? If so, it could be FPIES - Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome to milk (my dd has - to milk). That's a non-ige reaction - so not "typical" allergy sx, but vomiting/diarrhea 2 or so hours after ingestion.

Keep a food log and see what happens w/ foods, reactions, times happening etc.

go to www.kidswithfoodallergies.org - tons of info and you can ask for help and support

look at my previous food allergy posts - there's a lot of info in there too

talk to your dr, but as pp said, not all are up on food allergies, especially Non- IgE reactions. Contact a pediatric allergist - we go to Children's Memorial at the glenview annex. 800-kids-doc

good luck!

Hi. Yes my 2 year old son had a cold/virus in october. 2 weeks after the virus was over he had a dry cough and the frequency in the coughing spells got worse, especially in the cool air or at night. Yet he had no fever. I'm in the medical profession so the first thing I thought was an allergy. I looked up milk allergy in toddlers on the internet and it mentioned that coughing and a running nose could be symptoms. I t also said that a milk allergy can mimick symptoms of asthma. So what I did was give him 1/2 tsp of cold and allergy medicine for children, which has a antihistimine in it(for allergic reaction) and switched from whole milk to 2% Lactaid. and the coughing subsided and the runny nose decreased, still without fever.

The ear thing can be helped by a natural ear drop, such as Similisan Earache Relief for kids (http://www.similasanusa.com/products-earache-relief.cfm) found in health food stores/whole foods/and most major chains now. I think I just saw it at either walmart or Meijers.

Soy can also cause lots of allergic reactions, especially in children or infants. An alternative is either the Rice milk or Goat's milk. "Goat milk is naturally homogenized and is a good alternative for those allergic to cows milk and who don't tolerate soy milk well. It's less allergenic because it doesn't contain the same complex proteins found in cows milk. Goat's milk is an acquired taste, but I prefer it's molecular structure: it's fat and protein molecules are tiny in size, which allows for rapid absorption in the digestive tract" (excerpted from The Great Physician's RX for Women's Health by Jordan and Nicki Rubin) Any of Jordan's books are wonderful to read to learn more about nutrition and a more natural, organic way of life. Cow milk has always tasted funny to me, where Goat milk does not. It also does not give me the mucus mouth taste as when I drink cow milk. Mostly-since my husband is allergic to dairy, not lactose intolerant, we consume Almond milk or Rice milk. Soy milk is good if soy is tolerated by the baby's system well, but I would consider fermented dairy products, such as kefir or yogurt. YoBaby would be good, just blend it down so it's drinkable. Honey is not safe for infants and toddlers. With the mucusy backup that cows milk creates, you also run into ear infections and those that feed their babies juice at that time, just feed the bacteria in an ear infection with the sugar in the juice. It's better to water it down to almost nothing so you aren't giving more sugar and never ever give a child a sweetener such as aspartame/nutrasweet or splenda. They are chemically laden. There are herbal alternatives that are safer. jmho as we try to eat more organic and natural things.

Hi L.,

It could very well be an allergy to dairy. A lot of conventional physicians will not identify milk allergies right away. As far as asking the nurse. Nurses are not educated on integrated medicine or food allergies. I was a nurse. We had to seek further knowledge with specialty cases.

Make sure you make your physician aware of it directly and not through his staff. I would stand your ground on how he is regurgitating milk. Plus an indication of dairy allergies is usually excessive phlegm and stuffiness. Since he is only a year he responds by a weak gag reflex, which is caused by the excessive phlegm traveling down his throat at night.

Try to eliminate his dairy intake for a week. It won't hurt him. Try him out on soy milk to see how he responds without dairy. It might help him other than hurt him.

I have heard of other cases of children having recurring ear infections due to dairy allergies. I myself had a son who was allergic. He would get severe constipation and always have a runny nose. He has been off of dairy for 6 months and has not had one runny nose, and is regular.

Good luck to your little guy.

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF NATURAL HEALTH & HEALING FOR CHILDREN by M. Weber. GREAT resources for taking care of problems NATURALLY! HONEY is a great remedy for coughs, although maybe not for a one year old.

Don't know if there have been any immunizations in the past few weeks, but they, too can cause a chronic cough up to four weeks AFTER the immunization. Might want to do a little homework.


It sounds like he might have an allergy to dairy. How does he respond to other dairy (cheese, yogurt)? My son has/had a milk allergy that got worse the older he got. A dry cough was one of the reactions. Try completely eliminating dairy for a week and see how he does. You can also have an MSA test done where they test for all allergies - it is non-invasive and is based on chinese medicine. If you do a look up online you can probably find someone to do it in your area (typically a chiropractor's office). We are working on eliminating allergies for my son (he's 3) through some energy work (called NMT); the good news is that his dairy allergy is almost completely gone. If you want to know more, I'm happy to share my resources. Good luck.

M. (mother of 3yo boy and 5yo girl; we are skeptical of traditional medicine and seek a balance with alternative treatments)

My pediatrician is a allergist and immunologist he also uses chinese medicine. He has always suggested no milk products during any colds. The milk products produce muccos which can make them cough.

Yes, our son has something similar. After months of coughing at night strongly. We're on our second medicine, the first was a cold medicine and now it's a allergy medicine. After a month or more still has strong cough at night. We told the doctor we want some kind of breathing/ inhaling medicine to possible clean out lungs before asthma starts. The doctor understood and just gave us a inhaler to use twice a day. We are going to start tomorrow. meanwhile a Spanish remedy we are trying seems to be working. It's a blend of Plantain ripe or yellow/ with pealing , cinnamon and water to boil. let still , then blend with milk 1.5 cups. then bring to boil in pan. Can give by spoon or make it thin enough to pass through nipple. we have been doing this for 2 days has has good results.

Try soy or goat milk for a while and see if it makes a difference. If not, it could be a winter cold plus the nasty stomach bug that's been going around since Thanksgiving. Could be the dry air - get a humidifier in his room ASAP. Could be a wheat allergy (this means cutting out A LOT of foods so go to this possibility as a last resort).
Hope he's feeling better soon!

I agree with Stacie N. It sounds like a milk allergy to me too. I am guessing that was the reason he was on soy formula to start out with? (Most docs seem to recommend cow formula) Anyway, allergies can build up and that may be why he was really phlemy before and is just now throwing up. I wouldn't give him any more regular milk until you have a good talk with the doc. Perhaps give him formula until then and see if he still has a problem. It certainly would be telling if his problems with a cough suddenly ceased with the reintroduction to soy formula. Hope he (and you) are doing better soon.

It's the pasteurized milk that creates asthma, and symptoms of the like. My brother had the same problem for years after we moved into the big city and couldn't find raw milk. He drank that pasteurized milk all the time and his coughing and mucus got worse every day. I could not tolerate it either, only mine was mostly GI symptoms. We never had any health problems at all when we were growing up on the farm and had fresh raw milk every day. I have done extensive research on this topic. I recommend visiting Organic Pastures Dairy or the Weston A. Price Nutrition Foundation for the studies and more information. Try giving your son some good high quality raw milk! :) <http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/09/14/kids-who-drink-r...;

Hi L.-

We went through something similar with my daughter when we tried switching her over to whole milk, too. Not coughing, but vomiting. She LOVES milk, and drinks it down quickly. When she was a toddler, she was vomiting daily, but we didn't know why. She would be perfectly fine right after she threw up, though, and no fever, so we would send her to daycare. We started giving her less milk and my husband gave her Yo--J instead, which was detrimental to her tooth development; 2 of her molars are as soft as chalk and already have fillings as a result. We finally put her on soy milk full time, and the vomiting is almost non-existent. She doesn't seem to have the same problem with all dairy, but we took her to an allergist, who said she did not have a milk allergy. We've pretty much decided it's a lactose intolerance, but have cut regular milk from her diet totally, but not dairy. This seems to have done the trick. Our pediatrician cautioned that we needed to be sure that the soy milk contained calcium, which we hadn't even thought of. Also, I just learned, that soy milk needs to be well shaken before drinking because many of the nutrients sink to the bottom of the carton.

Good luck!

Hi L.,
I'm going to have to agree as well. It sounds like a milk allergy to me. My oldest daughter, now 3 1/2 has a milk allergy and she would actually throw it all up. I called my peditrician to tell them what was going on and they said the same. Once on soy, she was great. We SLOWLY introduced milk in some foods but to this day, NEVER give her cow's milk, always soy.
Good Luck,
K. :~)

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