Humans are the only mammal on earth that continue to drink milk past infancy.  We consume dairy products on a daily basis, often failing to notice that it is not always tolerated by our bodies, especially in small children.

Pediatric patients are often seen for ailments and symptoms that are written off by physicians as “normal.”   Ear and throat infections, frequent colds, severe bloating, gas, rashes and colic are some of these symptoms.  Bouncing a baby up and down or putting them on antibiotics is a common solution, but it may not be the best way to treat these young people.

Babies that suffer from chronic ear infections usually begin displaying symptoms by a year old.  They are most often placed on antibiotics to fight the bug that is causing the infection, but these antibiotics also kill flora in the child’s stomach that is essential for digestion and health.  A pediatric patient that suffers from chronic ear infections will experience symptoms repeatedly and usually over a couple of years, with doctors failing to cure the problem.  Many times a solution is to place tubes in the child’s ear.  It usually gets to this point before a frustrated parent begins to seek alternative solutions.

Allergens may be the root of the problem.  To test for allergies, children are often given IgE allergy tests where he or she is poked to find immediate hyper-sensitivity allergies.  But this test fails to detect food allergies which are slow mediated.

The most common food allergy is milk, which accounts for 98 percent of cases, and is often found to be the cause of chronic ear infections. The first sign of dairy allergy is colic, rashes and severe gas and bloating.  If undiscovered, it will lead to frequent colds, chronic ear and throat infections and later in life, asthma. There sometimes is a pattern with people who develop asthma, strep throat, frequent headaches, gall bladder issues or diverticulitis later in life–they usually have dealt with chronic ear infections as a baby.

Ear infections usually begin to occur chronically around a year old, when the child is taken off of his or her mother’s milk and given dairy products.  Detecting a dairy allergy involves a physician sitting down with the parents and talking about what the child has been eating.  Most often there has been dairy involved.  The child is then taken off of dairy products and given probiotics to restore healthy stomach flora. After being taken off of dairy, a child usually shows improvement in as little as two weeks.    

Having a dairy allergy is different then being lactose intolerant.  A dairy allergy begins at birth, perhaps being passed down from the mother through antibodies, while lactose intolerance occurs later in life.  Lactose intolerance is actually a deficiency in the enzyme used to break down dairy products, and is not an actual food allergy. As a healthy substitute for dairy, parents may want to try rice or almond milk (make sure to test the child for almond allergy first).  If the child never gets the chance to become accustomed to consuming dairy products, then he or she won’t crave them. 

 Finding the root of the problem, which may be as simple as eliminating dairy from the diet, will save a child from unnecessary surgery, illnesses and complications later in life.


  1. This all sounds very familiar.
    Daughter # 1: Introduction to cow’s milk, constant colds + ear infection, antibiotics and the cycle begins
    Daughter # 2: Ear infection around 4 months old, antibiotics and all of a sudden she has a milk protein allergy

  2. After successfully B/F twins for nearly two years, and raising 2 very healthy infants, my number 3 child has been extremely difficult..

    He was ‘colicky’ from a few weeks of age and screamed for hours, inconsolably at times. After doing some research, I commenced a dairy-free, garlic, onion, broccoli-free diet with fantastic results (instead of formula feeding as I was recommended). He was much more settled. I introduced solids at 6 months, (fruit and veg) and added meats/dairy/grains about 6 weeks later.. My son is now 10mths old and has had at least 4 ear infections since introducing dairy. He appears to have constant colds, is often irritable, constantly pulls at his ears and has at least 5 bowel motions per day. I now consume dairy also..

    I saw a GP today who has advised me to see an ear/nose/throat specialist, but I’m now wondering if eliminating dairy (both of us) will resolve the problems.. Starting tomorrow, rice and almond milk are back on the menu :)

    Hopefully he improves quickly…

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  4. My son is now 16 months old. He started on cows milk a couple of months ago and has since had 2 ear infections (including a burst ear drum) and been on 3 rounds of antibiotics. My naturopath suggested that I eliminate cow’s milk from his diet. Do I have to eliminate it entirely in order to be effective? It is easy to eliminate all diary that we serve at home but harder to regulate the little bit of milk/cheese/yorgurt he receives at daycare…

    • Unfortunately, yes. I know the daycare my son attends is great with allergies. They have alternatives or I send him with alternative snacks. If you really want to see if dairy is a factor, you have to eliminate it completely. Thank you for your comment. Dr. Pingel

    • Hi, did your child’s symptoms improve after eliminating dairy? I am collecting statements from people whose children suffered from ailments that resolved once dairy was cut out.

  5. Please, can you give me sources for this? I know for a fact that my daughter is allergic to dairy – but I need some written proof about this research.

    • I do not have anything on hand quickly. But wouldn’t be a bad idea to search pubmed.
      May also want to search for probiotics and low bacterial flora in conjunction with milk allergy, ear infections, chronic antibiotic use. Not sure you will find “statistical” proof, but you will find alot of research surrounding it. I can tell you by clinical experience I see this ALOT and help many kids recover by investigating this issue with them. Thanks for your comment. I apologize for the delay in response to it. Dr. Pingel

      • I found an article on JAMA! It is more focused on detecting the allergy (since it can be difficult with the congestion symptoms, as opposed to the GI symptoms)- but I printed it off to bring to the pedi and ENT appointments, because everyone was shooting down my “theory.” We’ve been doing dairy free for about 2 weeks now, but I need to be more strict with my diet as a BF mom (I’ve eliminated it for the most part, but keep slipping up). My 13 month old has been having recurrent ear and sinus issues since November- which is when we began yogurt and cheese. Including 3 perforated ear drums. Tubes (and adenoid surgery) were placed in APril, and 2 weeks later his ear became so full of fluid his tube actually popped out! I am at the end of my rope, and praying this dairy-free diet works!

  6. My 2 year old son (my first) was (and still is) breast feeding since he was born. We introduced dairy into his diet at about 12-13 months. At 13 months old, he got his first real illness and a high fever, which resulted in him having a seizure. Since then, he has been battling colds and recurring ear infections. He has had 8 febrile seizures since he turned 1. The doctors that he has seen are always throwing antibiotics at him, saying that because he’s so prone to having seizures with a fever (febrile seizures) they want to catch the infection before it causes a fever. So basically, all they’re seeing when they look in his ear, is red and pink and it looks inflamed. He has had a perforated ear drum one time, and that was awful…. Nobody has ever considered he may have a dairy allergy. It seems like the medical community is more interested in treating his symptoms instead of finding the cause of his irritation. I know some of his ear infections were just viral, but the other 8 or so, probably weren’t, considering he wasn’t showing any cold symptoms with them. Two days ago, he had a mild fever, we thought it was his teeth. Half way through the day it spiked up to 103 and he had a seizure at the hospital. They have determined that the bacteria must be resistant to the amoxicillin, so they gave him a sulfa-based antibiotic, this time. Still, nobody has bothered to look into the cause of why he keeps getting the ear infections. They say it must be because his ear canal is so small. Which might have something to do with it, but still. It seems unusual, for me, anyway, that he should have his 3rd ear infection since the beginning of March. He also eats A TON of dairy. He LOVES cheese and yogurt. He doesn’t drink a lot of milk, but we put a lot of cow’s milk in his food. A few friends mentioned that they have dairy allergies and had constant ear infections as children, so I started researching the correlation. I am so shocked to find that this has been a known cause of many childhood ear infections and that nobody said a word to me about it before! Thank you so much for the information. I’m taking this to his doctor, and we started eliminating dairy from his diet last night. I bought goat’s milk yogurt, daiya cheese and coconut milk for him to drink. I really hope this helps!! Any additional advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • I am sorry to hear about your son and his illness. I commend you for doing some research and seeking the cause. Consider now why he might have developed the dairy allergy. Once you treat that, he will not have any further complications later in life. Look into effects of long term antibiotic use as that will be crucial to his recovery.
      best of luck to you and your son. Dr. Pingel.

    • Rachel Miller…..As I read your story I can’t help but think “This is my son!!!!!!” Has removing dairy helped your son? He was so healthy the first year of his life while I breast feeding & now he’s snotty with a fever every other week. He suffered his third fibrile seizure last night without any warning….I thought his teeth were the cause of his mild irritability last night & now I’m convinced it was the milk & cottage cheese he ate at dinner. He just had blood work done due to egg allergies & it came back very high for milk…..nurse said it was false positive since milk doesn’t cause him any problems….but now I think milk is causing all the problems!! Starting dairy free diet today….thanks for sharing!!!

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  8. This is what I have been thinking is wrong with my daughter. She constantly has colds, sinus infections, eye infections and ear infections. We are currenlty on ear infection #14 even after tubes. I have started her on a dairy free diet as of last week and I am hoping I have found the root of the problem. I am tired of her being on antibiotics 24/7, I am taking her to a second ENT next week. I have expressed to my current ENT that I believed my daughter had some type of allery, to which he responded that children this young do not have allergies. My daughter is now 17 months, we have been having this same issue since she was 7 months old.

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  11. My daughter was scheduled for her third set of ear tubes and surgery for her adenoids to be removed today but after a persistent mother asking me to take her to a chiropractor I did. The doctor we saw is also holistic and immediately said cut out dairy. If that doesn’t work cutting out gluten is next too. My daughter who just turned 3 last week has had at least 10 ear infections in her life and the two sets of tubes. With the tubes she still had draining issues and often would be held down at the doctors to remove the buildup of wax. Needless to say she despises doctors offices now! The chiropractor adjusted her and got rid of the “popcorn” in her neck and back and is hoping that will help with the draining.

    I personally am a little bit hesitant of cutting out all dairy since she hasn’t had any other inclination of an allergy to anything. Besides the ear infections she is a pretty healthy child, the occasional cold and she has eye issues but majority of the time she is happy and healthy. Do you think dairy is the culprit too? I bought her almond milk and greek yogurt on the doctors suggestion and she and my son both enjoy it but I am worried about cutting dairy out COMPLETELY, especially with cheese. She is a cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese addict…any suggestions to a diagnosis or ideas for help in changing the whole families lifestyle?

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  13. My daughter is two. She is suffering from chronic ear infection. She was allergic to dairy products from birth. She has atopic eczema. Seems like she lost the allergy so I started giving her milk products then the ear infections start. what to do. She don’t like soy products again.milkproducts.

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  16. Thank you for confirming what I suspected, my daughters chronic ear problem cleared up within 3 months of taking dairy out of her diet. She went from frequent perforated eardrums to nothing. I have recently tried introducing goats cheese into her diet and her asthma which she previously had once a year is now weekly. Am now going to see if her asthma clears up if dairy is eliminated again. My son ears only perforated twice, both times after being given milk at preschool. All my kids were breastfed and if I had dairy they got colic, and ear infections.

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  18. We discovered that my husband was allergic to dairy after choosing to become vegan two years ago. We did it to help with our cholesterol levels and be healthier overall. His symptoms were constant head colds, sinus infections, and being drained all the time even though he’s in great physical shape. After we stopped dairy all of those symptoms disappeared, and all of his allergies (to grass, animals, seasonal) were much less.
    Our 2 1/2 yr old son can’t have dairy – it gives him extremely painful gas and causes diarrhea for a day or two. I had the same reaction with my two pregnancies. On the flip side, none of us have had one ear or sinus infection since we completely cut it out! So I’m a believer that dairy directly affects the mucous tissues.
    My husband and I both had multiple ear infections, strep throat, etc as kids and are glad our little ones don’t have to go through that!

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  21. I’m almost 40 now and still have problems. Thank you so much for putting this up. I had to explain for many years why I can’t have milk. even laughed at by doctors saying “there is no such allergy”. I was diagnosed by a Dr. Gull ent. of tampa, but not before 4 ear surgeries, 2 throat surgeries, inhalers, and years of antibiotics. I’m now partially deff, have chronic throat problems, and immune to many antibiotics, and still can’t have milk/milk products.

  22. Suffered throughout my childhood and adolescence in ignorance suffering from asthma, colds and inner ear infections, acid reflux and abdominal bloating. Eliminating cows milk and dairy completely resolved the situation, however dairy products are so widely used in all types of food production it is difficult to eliminate it completely unless you’re very vigilant. The widespread use of antibiotics in dairy and beef production might also be a source for concern. Maybe there is a good reason why Hindus worship the sacred cow!

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