Last updated on 16/01/2020

Dairy important for healthy kids – especially those with asthma

Aloysa Hourigan has heard all the stories about milk causing or triggering asthma.

The accredited practicing dietician for Nutrition Australia says it is a common belief that dairy foods and asthma are linked closely, but for most people this is just not true.

“Asthma is an inflammatory response,” she says.

“Asthma is triggered by lots of things – particularly the environment – and the thought that dairy is a major culprit is mostly not the case.”

In general, she says, parents of children with asthma can offer the full range of healthy foods to achieve a balanced diet.

If parents are concerned their children experience more asthma flare-ups after they eat or drink dairy, then they should consult health professionals for appropriate allergy or intolerance testing.

Ms Hourigan says dairy is part of a healthy, balanced diet and is the easiest way to consume sufficient calcium.

This is needed as children grow and increase their bone density, which also offers some protection against bone-health risk due to medical corticosteroid use.

Nutrition Australia points to a research study of more than 3000 pre-school aged children that found kids who ate dairy foods daily had fewer asthma symptoms than those who did not.

Other research has found kids who drank more than three serves of milk a day were less likely to develop asthma than children who had very low milk consumption. Dairy does not lead to increased mucous production.

One serve of dairy is equivalent to one cup of milk (250mL), one tub of yoghurt (200g) or two slices of cheese (40g).

“It contains at least a third of the child’s daily diary input so you want to make sure it is packed full of nutrition so they can learn well and reach their full potential,” Ms Hourigan says.

Ahead of the back-to-school rush, reconsider the health of your child’s lunchbox.

Five serves of vegetables daily along with two serves of fruit contribute to a healthy diet, which may help to reduce the risk of asthma flare-ups.

Takeaways and processed foods, often high in saturated fats and salt, promote inflammation in the body and may also increase the risk of more asthma flare-ups. There is emerging evidence healthy eating may assist with lung health.

The National Asthma Council Australia, Australian Asthma Handbook (2019) advises children and adults with asthma to continue to consume the recommended daily amount of dairy foods unless the person has a proven allergy or intolerance.

Asthma Australia wants parents and kids to be “asthma-ready”.

The start of the year, as kids return to school and as we head into winter, this time of year often comes with increased risks of asthma flare-ups, when kids can experience more symptoms. There are increased presentations and admissions for asthma to hospital.

It encourages a check-in with your child’s doctor for an asthma review and up-to-date Asthma Action Plan, to visit your local pharmacy to purchase spare asthma medication and check spacer technique and to talk with school staff about your child’s asthma management.

Asthma is a lifelong condition and right now, there isn’t a cure. But, for most of the one in nine Australians who have asthma, it can be managed well.

To prepare for school, download the Asthma Checklist.