Of Milk and Mucus

I recently heard someone tell a cold sufferer, with absolute kindness and sincerity, that drinking milk when one has a virus will inevitably result in some minor mucus apocalypse. milk

Speaking as someone with enough allergies and sensitivities to make Sheldon Cooper sit up and pay attention I can honestly say that Milk has never had that effect on me, and I am fairly sure I would be the kind of person who would notice.

It set me thinking – as things do.

Perhaps I should first point out here that I am not pitching for the Milk Marketing Board, and in point of fact, really, really, do not ‘like’ drinking milk; a dislike I have always put down to being brought up on a farm and drinking ‘raw’ milk into my teens.  For me at least pasteurised milk tastes slightly sour and slightly tainted. As pasteurisation is essentially about heating and cooling milk this does not surprise me in the slightest. My thoughts on the horrors of UHT milk I shall not allow to sully this page; but for the record, pasteurised milk is heated to 72°C and UHT to a temperature of 138°C – granted for less time, but nevertheless…

Of course drinking untreated milk also gave me Brucellosis… but everything it a trade-off, and, as always, I digress. Back to how milk prompts the body to make snot – or not.

It’s true that some people may feel they have experienced this reaction, but there is, currently, no apparent evidence to back up this theory. Research strongly indicates that this clogging sensation comes from milk coating the throat, and the resultant texture of that fluid on inflamed tissue, rather than any increase in the production of mucus, and that this very same sensation occurs with other liquids of similar thickness.

Symptoms of lactose intolerance are very different to an ‘added snot’ factor, but… those who have one food allergy are more likely to suffer from other allergic disorders such as allergic rhinitis, so having some sensitivity to milk or some constituent part of it, can’t be ruled out in a very small percentage of cases.

Milk does contain: Calcium, phosphate, magnesium, sodium, potassium, vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, K, E, thiamine, niacin, biotin, riboflavin and folates, many of which are beneficial to the immune system in fighting off infection.

So… according to various allergy research sources, unless you are lactose intolerant, milky drinks when you have a cold are more likely to do you some good than any harm.

Except, of course, if you’re like me and just plain do not like the taste. In the event of my suffering virus purgatory I usually ignore my Nain’s  raw onion juice cure and plump for hot chocolate and brandy every time! And don’t stint on the brandy… grape, apricot, cherry, apple… so long as I don’t need to drive anywhere I’m not fussy.


  1. I also detest the taste of milk, as a teenage psoriasis sufferer my doctor told me to change to goats milk and the flaky skin faded and I’ve never had an attack since. Onion’s contain pretty much the same nutrients as does milk albeit slightly more calcium, but drinking onion juice by the glassful would fill me with dread.


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