The University of Kansas Hospital Pediatric Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist Julie L. Wei, MD, coined the phrase the “Milk & Cookie Disease”TM after years of treating children referred to her with ear, nose and throat complaints that mimicked actual infections and illness.  Often these patients were on several medications but not showing improvement. Dr. Wei strongly believed a significant number of children were misdiagnosed and over-medicated. She successfully treated them by prescribing a change in what and when they eat … especially dairy and sugar. The results have been children sleeping better, eating better, and thriving with fewer or no medications.

1. Who is Dr. Wei and how do you pronounce her name?

Wei is pronounced “way”.  She frequently tells her patients and parents there is a healthier way to live, which is where A Healthier Wei (the title of her book available in November) originates.

2. What is the Milk & Cookie DiseaseTM ?

It is a phrase Dr. Wei coined to help parents better understand the impact of snacks given to children in the evening and at bedtime, particularly dairy and sugar.  Dr. Wei sees a strong link between foods high in dairy, sugar and acid and the symptoms children show that often mimic actual infections and illness resulting in children being misdiagnosed and over-medicated.

 3. What symptoms do children experiencing Milk & Cookie DiseaseTM show that can be mistaken as infections or other illness? 

Symptoms of Milk & Cookie DiseaseTM  include chronic stuffy nose, nasal congestion, chronic runny nose, cough, “sinus infections”, sore throat, recurrent “croup”, allergies and asthma.

4. How does Milk & Cookie DiseaseTM cause symptoms that mimic other illness?

Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) can occur when children snack too close to bedtime.  Food and liquid can back up in the stomach, the esophagus (swallowing tube) and even up into the throat which is called reflux.

5. How can parents tell if their child is suffering Milk & Cookie DiseaseTM ?

Parents should answer these questions and consult their pediatrician.

6. Does Your Child Have “Milk & Cookie DiseaseTM”? 

If you answer “yes” five or more times, or if your child is otherwise healthy but on more than 3 medications, or have seen several specialists such as pediatric gastroenterology, ENT, pulmonary, or asthma/allergy doctors, your child could have Milk & Cookie DiseaseTM and you should consult with your pediatrician.

1. Was your child born full term and healthy?                                                  Yes    No

2. Does your child drink milk at or immediately before bedtime?                     Yes    No

3. Does your child eat a snack/drink anything other than water after dinner? Yes    No

4. Does your child have chronic “stuffy” nose?                                                 Yes    No

5. Is your child “sick” but still able to go to school/live life?                               Yes    No

6. Have any of the medications completely “cured” his/her symptoms?           Yes    No

7. Do you feel frustrated that your child is not “healthier”?                                Yes    No

8. Does your child have constipation? (need laxative to keep regular?)            Yes    No

9. How many medications is your child currently on?                              1     2    3     > 4

10. How many specialists has your child seen in the past year?             1     2    3     > 4


Article Comments
  1. MarizaMay 28, 2013 4:03 am

    Dear Dr Wei

    My baby is currently 13 weeks old. She has been suffering with a blocked/runny nose since 2 weeks old. I have had numerous trips to my GP but with no luck at all. It seems like it worsens from around 4:30am with sneezing from around 7:30am when she sits up. the rest of the day its a constant run/blocked. Luckily we have moments when it is not so bad and where she can breath freely.

    I am breastfeeding 100% and was wondering if my intake of wheat/dairy might have an influence on her nose? OR, the GP said she need to grow out of it and I just have to wait. Or, will it be worth seeing my local ENT?

    Kind Regards

    • julieMay 28, 2013 9:21 am

      HI Mariza,
      I often see new born infants with severe nasal congestion. If your baby was born full term, otherwise healthy, is gaining weight appropriately, and has not had increased work of breathing and/or “blue spells”, then this should get better in another month or two. Babies are born to be “obligate” nasal breathers, since only our nose can humidify the air and our bodies are designed to function at its best only when we breathe through our noses, up to 4-5 months of age a baby will always try to breathe through their nose no matter how “blocked” or congested they are. If an adult has a cold or is congested, we simply open our mouth and breathe through it. I am not exactly sure why at 4:30 am is when the symptoms start, but would guess that depending on what time in the night you are feeding your baby it may be related. Whatever feeding that is in the stomach, as your baby is sleeping laying flat, milk may regurgitate back up into the throat and cause the nose to be congested. My book explains in great detail the physiology of how the nose works and the relationship between digestion and nasal congestion.

      Sneezing is completely normal and will not harm her. For babies in their first year of life, when congestion is severe, you can safely put a few drops of saline into his/her nostrils which may actually cause sneezing to occur. This can be helpful as babies do not know how to sniff in or blow out their snot. As for your own diet, I do not have definitive evidence that eliminating dairy and/or wheat would make a difference. Remember that unless you test positive for food allergies specifically to cow milk protein and wheat, or have had a medical diagnosis such as Celiac disease, I can’t justify telling a mom what she can/can’t eat because I have no scientific basis of how that would impact a baby’s severity of spit up. However, many mothers have shared with me that they learned to eliminate certain items, like onion, garlic, broccoli, and even, dairy, and if they say it helped, it doesn’t matter what I think. So proud of you for breast feeding.
      Hang in there, enjoy your baby. See an ENT if your baby does have severe noisy breathing (not cute snorts or squeeks, those are normal), turns blue, stops breathing, or any other problems that you think is abnormal with the breathing. A ENT should be able to put a skinny camera into your baby’s nose and throat to make sure everything is good. Finally, there are certainly issues that babies can be born with causing significant runny nose and blocked nose, the most common of which is “choanal atresia”. That means the nostril was not developed normally in the center of the head and there is no connection from the nostril into the throat for airflow. An ENT can rule this out, or a special CT scan of the head can make the diagnosis. If at the time of birth your baby was able to be suctioned through both sides of the nostril without problems, it is highly unlikely this is an issue.

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