Should a Toddler With Phlegm Drink Milk?

Toddlers can get colds and infections that cause coughing and congestion. A wet, or mucus-filled, cough can produce phlegm in toddlers. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that there is no evidence that milk will worsen mucus in toddlers or anyone else. Consult your pediatrician for appropriate treatment if your toddler has phlegm.

A toddler girl drinking a glass of milk at a sunny table. (Image: CroMary/iStock/Getty Images)

Phlegm and Colds

Phlegm refers to mucus that builds up in the throat. Children with phlegm often have to cough to expel the mucus. Phlegm is usually watery and can be various colors, depending on what's causing it. If your toddler has phlegm, her cough may sound rattling or like she has liquid in her throat. Other symptoms that may accompany phlegm coughs include mild fever, runny nose and sneezing, according to the website What to Expect. A toddler with phlegm likely has a cold or other viral infection.

Milk Theory

Although some people believe that milk and other dairy products can cause your body to produce phlegm, research suggests that milk does not cause mucus. A review of the available evidence published in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" in 2005 found that milk consumption does not lead to the production of mucus. Researchers reported that people with the cold virus who drank milk did not have increased nasal secretions, cough or congestion.

Milk Allergy

An allergic reaction to milk is one of the most common food allergies in children. Many children outgrow a milk allergy by age three. The symptoms of milk allergy can vary from mild to severe. Toddlers with a milk allergy may develop hives or start wheezing or vomiting immediately after drinking milk. Other symptoms can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, runny nose and watery eyes. A milk allergy may cause asthma-like symptoms in some people, but the occurrence is rare, reports the 2005 "Journal of the American College of Nutrition."


Fluid replacement is important for toddlers with phlegm and a common cold. In particular, water can help to lubricate the mucus membrane, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Although toddlers cannot take most over-the-counter medications for phlegm, some home remedies can help. Chicken soup does help to ease congestion. A cool-mist humidifier can loosen up mucus and congestion. A spoonful of honey is also an effective treatment to help soothe the throat. Just remember that you can give honey only to children over the age of one.

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