Is your child's runny nose due to the Milk and Cookie Disease?

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Most parents know it is inevitable that their little ones will fall sick quite regularly -- either they are down with the dreaded flu or they've got a serious case of the sniffles due to a cold. But there are times when a runny nose in kids signifies more than just a cold. 

If your child seems to always have a stuffy nose, or a persistent cough, or a constant runny nose, it might be something a little more serious than just a common cold. It could possibly be the Milk and Cookie Disease.

Constant Runny Nose in Kids a Sign of Milk and Cookie Disease? 

Dr Julie Wei, M.D., is an associate professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She often found that the young patients she treated for ear, nose and throat (ENT) ailments were on several medications but not showing any signs of improvement. 

This caused her to suspect that a majority of these children she was seeing were possibly misdiagnosed and even over-medicated. 

“In my practice, I was repeatedly seeing things wrong with kids. How can a human being that’s not physically sick have these symptoms every day?”, says Dr Wei.

Her theory is that her young patients' diets which contain dairy and sugar, played a significant part in their ear, nose and throat symptoms, thus coining the phrase, "Milk and Cookie Disease" (MCD).

But what exactly is Milk and Cookie Disease and how do you know if your child really suffers from it?

When a Runny Nose in Kids is Misdiagnosed

Milk and Cookie Disease consists of ear, nose, and throat complaints that share the same sinus or allergy symptoms and other actual infections or illness. For example, runny nose in kids. So it is not uncommon for children to be misdiagnosed as having sinus infections or allergies.

But through her observations and research, Dr Wei noticed the common link between her young patients were that their daily diets consisted of sugary drinks and milk throughout the day, right up until bedtime, which causes Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).

This is when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus which can also contribute to heartburn, increased mucus production and sore throats. All of these are also the same symptoms of the common cold.

One of Dr Wei's patients was a 10 year old girl who had experienced 27 bouts of croup over her young life and was on six medications but nothing seemed to be working.

But when it was discovered that she had milk and cookies as a bedtime snack every night, Dr Wei suggested her parents cut out all dairy and sugar in the evenings, after which the child went six months without any problems.

"A light bulb went off, and I began asking many of my patients' parents what they were eating at night. It was astounding how often it was something containing either sugar or dairy, or often both", she shares.

Signs to look out for (other than a runny nose in kids)

So how do you know if your child just has the common cold or could be the Milk and Cookie Disease instead? Here is a check list for you to go through.

Symptoms of Milk and Cookie Disease:

  • Chronic runny nose in kids
  • Nasal congestion
  • Chronic runny nose
  • Persistent cough
  • Recurring sinus infections
  • Sore throat
  • Recurrent croup
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Wheezing

If in doubt, be sure to always seek professional medical advice from your family doctor.

Prevention and treatment of Milk and Cookie Disease

A lot of children naturally like to consume sweet food and beverages, but experts say that too much sugar in your diet can affect your immunity and can even reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill germs by up to 40 percent.

Parents might also forget that there is sugar in their children's drinks, such as flavoured milk, juice boxes, sodas and fortified "water".

Fermenting sugar and processed liquid which remains in the stomach gets more rancid throughout the night and can come back up to cause symptoms that can mislead doctors into treating asthma, allergies, or other ailments.

As for dairy, even though some people feel that drinking milk right before bedtime will help you sleep better at night, Dr Wei warns families that drinking milk before bed is really bad for a child or anyone older than 12 months.

According to her, milk that has been sitting at 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit for a few hours, mixed with some stomach acid will probably curdle and form yoghurt-like clumps, which can reflux back up to the child’s throat.

"I have spent years observing that when kids stop consuming sugar and dairy in the evenings and before bed, many are completely 'cured' of their ENT (Ear Nose Throat) symptoms. Even if they are not cured, at least it makes it clear to someone like me what their real medical problems may be", she says.

Make better choices

There is no need to cut out all sugar and dairy completely from your child's diet to prevent or treat Milk and Cookie Disease. But Dr Wei  advises parents to teach their children to make better choices by modelling and encouraging good eating and drinking behavior.

You can take your kids to the supermarket and look at the food labels together to try and choose products which are lower in sugar, cook at home instead of eating out or buying take-out food, and stick to drinking plain water.

Ms Susie Rucker, a nutritional therapist at healthcare centre, Body With Soul (Singapore), believes that water is the best choice for children. She also says that fresh fruit juice with no added sugar is nutritionally superior to fruit juices in tetra packs.

Parents who worry about their child's calcium intake can include other calcium-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, tofu, certain nuts (like almonds), some fruits (like oranges and figs), and many more.

Or you can also opt for other kinds of milk to help supplement their diet.

Alternatives to dairy milk:

  • Soy milk
  • Almond milk
  • Rice milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Oat milk

By adopting healthy eating habits from a young age, your child will be more likely to continue having a preference for them as an adult, so by helping your child make better food choices now, it will have a big impact on his health and quality of life in the future.

If you suspect that your child might have the Milk and Cookie Disease, you can try to eliminate his sugar and dairy intake at bedtime to see if the symptoms get better, and also consult a medical professional for more advice.

This article is republished with permission from theAsianparent.

Have you heard of the Milk and Cookie Disease before? Do you think cutting down on sugar and dairy can help with your child's constant runny nose or minor allergy symptoms? Share your thoughts with us.