Does Dairy Really Worsen Flu Symptoms?

You’re sniffling, sleepy and wish your booming headache would just go away. That’s right – you’re feeling the effects of flu. Now, after consuming a few aspirin and necked a gallon of water, you can’t help but crave your usual morning bowl of cereal. But you can’t. Because you have the flu. And everyone knows dairy exacerbates flu symptoms.


Turns out, the science just isn’t there when it comes to linking up milk and mucus. Numerous studies have been conducted over the past few decades to unearth what is the truth behind it and why exactly dairy leaves us feeling slightly more lousy when the flu comes around.

The idea that milk induces mucus production has been around for centuries, and can even be found in traditional Chinese medicines and in the writings of 12th century doctors.

And such an idea has persisted even to today.

With a 2004 study finding 58 per cent of people believed that dairy worsens flu symptoms, with many purportedly hearing it from their own GP.

But, despite the cultural acknowledgement that dairy is evil as soon as the sniffles come around, the real question comes down to what evidence there actually is behind it.

Well, just think about your own experiences.

When you wake up feeling particularly phlgemmy, sometimes the sensation of milk which, with its thick viscosity, can give the sensation of a ‘coating’, leading to more difficulty swallowing.

However, this theory seems to have been summed up in research from 1993 which found that when presented with a placebo soya alternative, people said they found it just as difficult to swallow after consuming the soya version as it was with the cow’s milk.

So, it seems that dairy is completely fine to consume while experiencing the flu. It doesn’t make your symptoms worse, but can make you feel more uncomfortable – which is why so many prefer to swerve it. More dairy does not mean more mucus, and it can help add some extra calories to your diet if your appetite has gone. Of course, it is prescribed for flu symptoms, so avoid it if you feel it is making swallowing too difficult.

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