Does Ice Cream Make a Cough Worse? The Truth Behind this Common Belief

I’m sure we have all been told at some point in our lives not to eat ice cream when we have a cough. Everyone has a different theory, but is there any truth to it? Does ice cream really make a cough worse?

The thought of not being able to indulge in a cold, creamy treat while we are feeling under the weather can be a real bummer. However, we need to review the facts and see if the rumors are true or just an old wives’ tale.

We all need to know if our favorite treat is helping or harming our health. We need to dive into the science behind this old myth and get to the bottom of whether or not ice cream really does make your cough worse. So, let’s explore and put this theory to the test.

Common Causes of Coughing

Coughing is a natural response of the body to clear the airways of any irritants, such as mucus, dust, or allergens. In some instances, the body can cough up to a pint of mucus per day. In other cases, coughing can be a sign of an underlying health concern. Some common causes of coughing include:

  • Allergies – When the immune system reacts to an allergen like pollen, dust, or pet dander, it can lead to coughing. Allergic rhinitis or hay fever can also cause coughing as a symptom.
  • Asthma – Asthma is a condition where the airways narrow and produce extra mucus, leading to coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
  • Viral Infections – The common cold and the flu are viral infections that can cause coughing as one of their symptoms.
  • Bacterial Infections – Bacterial infections like pneumonia, bronchitis, and whooping cough can cause coughing.
  • GERD – Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause acid to flow back into the esophagus, causing irritation and leading to coughing.

In conclusion, coughing can be a natural response to clear the airways of irritants or a symptom of an underlying health issue. If you experience persistent coughing that does not go away, it is advisable to visit a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

How the Respiratory System Works

The respiratory system is responsible for bringing oxygen into the body and removing carbon dioxide. It includes the lungs, trachea, bronchi, and diaphragm. When we breathe in, air travels through the nose or mouth and down the trachea, where it splits into the left and right bronchi, leading to the lungs. The lungs are made up of tiny air sacs called alveoli, where oxygen is transferred into the bloodstream and carbon dioxide is removed.

  • The trachea, also known as the windpipe, is a tube made of cartilage and lined with tiny hairs called cilia that help filter out harmful particles.
  • The bronchi are two branches of the trachea that lead to the left and right lungs. They continue to divide into smaller and smaller airways, ending in the alveoli.
  • The diaphragm is a large muscle located at the bottom of the chest cavity that plays a crucial role in breathing. When it contracts, it pulls down, creating more space in the chest cavity and allowing air to rush into the lungs. When it relaxes, it pushes up, forcing air out of the lungs.

Why Coughing Occurs

Coughing is a reflex that helps clear the respiratory system of irritants or excess mucus. When the airways become inflamed or irritated, sensory nerves in the airway lining send a signal to the brain, triggering a cough. The act of coughing forces air out of the lungs at a high rate of speed, expelling any foreign particles or excess mucus in the airways.

In some cases, coughing can also be a symptom of an underlying respiratory condition, such as asthma, bronchitis, or pneumonia. These conditions can cause inflammation of the airways, making it difficult to breathe and triggering coughing spells.

The Effects of Ice Cream on Coughing

As of now, there is no evidence to suggest that ice cream specifically makes coughing worse. However, certain foods and drinks can cause irritation to the respiratory system, especially if they are consumed while a person is already experiencing coughing or inflammation.

Sugary foods, such as ice cream, can cause mucus production to increase, which can make coughing more frequent. Additionally, consuming cold foods and beverages can cause the airways to constrict, leading to more difficulty breathing and potentially triggering a coughing spell.

Food/Drink Effect on Respiratory System
Sugary foods Increased mucus production
Cold foods/drinks Constriction of airways
Spicy foods Can irritate the airways

Overall, it is important to be mindful of the foods and drinks that you consume when experiencing respiratory symptoms such as coughing. While ice cream itself may not make coughing worse, it is best to avoid sugary or cold foods that may exacerbate symptoms.

Reasons why people eat ice cream when sick

Ice cream is an all-time favorite dessert for many people. It’s creamy, sweet, and satisfying, making it a perfect comfort food, especially when you’re feeling under the weather. Here are some reasons why people eat ice cream when sick:

  • It feels good on a sore throat – One of the best things about ice cream is its cool, soothing texture, which can help calm a sore throat. The coldness of the ice cream can numb the pain and reduce inflammation in the throat.
  • It’s easy to swallow – When you’re feeling sick, you may not feel like eating anything. But ice cream is soft, smooth, and easy to swallow, making it a good option when you’re not up for chewing solid foods.
  • It’s a mood booster – Eating ice cream can give you a temporary mood boost, thanks to the release of dopamine in the brain. This can help offset the symptoms of feeling sick and give you a temporary sense of relief.

While ice cream can provide temporary relief when you’re feeling sick, it’s essential to remember that it’s not a cure for any illness. It’s crucial to seek medical attention if your symptoms persist or worsen.

Effects of Sugar on the Body

As one of the main ingredients in ice cream, sugar has always been a topic of discussion among health enthusiasts. Despite its undeniable sweetness, sugar has some detrimental effects on the body that can lead to various health issues.

Here are some ways sugar can affect our bodies:

  • Weight gain: Consuming too much sugar can lead to weight gain, as it contains high levels of empty calories. These are calories that provide no nutrients or health benefits and can be stored in the body as fat.
  • Inflammation: Sugar can cause inflammation in the body, leading to a wide range of health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
  • Energy crashes: While sugar can provide a quick burst of energy, it can also cause energy crashes shortly afterward, leaving you feeling lethargic and unmotivated.

It’s important to be mindful of our sugar intake and try to limit it as much as possible. Opting for low-sugar or sugar-free alternatives can help minimize the negative effects of sugar on the body.

Here’s a table that shows the sugar content of some of the most popular ice cream flavors:

Ice Cream Flavor Sugar Content (per 1/2 cup)
Chocolate 14g
Vanilla 12g
Strawberry 13g

As you can see, even a small serving of ice cream can contain a significant amount of sugar. It’s always best to enjoy treats like ice cream in moderation and be mindful of your overall sugar intake for a healthier body.

Dairy and Mucus Production

Many people believe that consuming dairy products like ice cream can worsen cough and congestion due to their potential to increase mucus production. But is there any truth to this belief?

Firstly, it’s important to understand that mucus is a natural substance produced by the body to help protect and moisten the respiratory system. While excessive mucus production can contribute to cough and congestion, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that consuming dairy products like ice cream leads to an increase in mucus production.

  • In fact, a review of several studies found no consistent evidence to support the claim that dairy products stimulate mucus production or exacerbate respiratory conditions such as cough and congestion.
  • While individual experiences may vary, it’s more likely that the sensation of excess mucus after consuming ice cream or dairy products is due to the texture of the food rather than any increase in production.
  • The thick and creamy texture of ice cream can leave a coating in the mouth and throat that can be mistaken for mucus. This sensation is known as “postnasal drip” and is a common symptom of many respiratory conditions.

It’s also important to note that not all dairy products are created equal. While ice cream and other high-fat dairy products may be more likely to cause postnasal drip due to their texture, other low-fat dairy products like yogurt and cheese may not have the same effect.

In conclusion, while it’s a common belief that consuming dairy products like ice cream can worsen cough and congestion by increasing mucus production, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. It’s more likely that any perceived increase in mucus production is due to the texture of the food or individual experiences rather than any true physiological effect.

How cough suppressants work

When we cough, it is our body’s natural way of clearing our airways of irritants or mucus. However, constant coughing can be exhausting and disruptive to daily life. To alleviate coughing, many people turn to cough suppressants. Here’s how they work:

  • Antitussives: These are cough suppressants that work by suppressing the cough reflex in the brain. They are usually used for dry coughs and are found in many over-the-counter medications.
  • Expectorants: These work by thinning and loosening mucus in the airways, making it easier to cough up. They are usually used for chesty coughs and are also found in many over-the-counter medications.
  • Opioid-based cough suppressants: These are prescription medications that work by binding to specific receptors in the brain and suppressing the cough reflex. They are typically used for severe coughs and should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional due to their potential for abuse and addiction.

It’s important to note that cough suppressants do not treat the underlying cause of the cough, such as a respiratory infection or allergies. They only provide temporary relief from the symptoms.

In addition to medication, there are other natural ways to suppress a cough such as drinking warm tea with honey, using a humidifier, and staying hydrated. It’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new treatments or medications, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are taking other medications.

Here’s a table summarizing the different types of cough suppressants:

Type of Cough Suppressant How It Works Examples
Antitussives Suppresses cough reflex in the brain Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM), codeine (prescription only)
Expectorants Thins and loosens mucus in the airways, making it easier to cough up Guaifenesin (Mucinex, Robitussin)
Opioid-based cough suppressants Binds to specific receptors in the brain and suppresses cough reflex Hydrocodone (prescription only)

Remember, cough suppressants should only be used for short periods and as directed by a healthcare professional. If you have a persistent cough that lasts longer than a few weeks or is associated with other symptoms, such as chest pain or difficulty breathing, it’s important to see a healthcare professional for evaluation and treatment.

Alternatives to Ice Cream for Sore Throats

When you have a sore throat, cold treats like ice cream may provide temporary relief. However, dairy products can cause the production of mucus, which can make coughing worse. So, what are some alternatives to ice cream for sore throats?

  • Frozen Fruit – Blend frozen berries, mango or banana with a little juice or water to make a refreshing frozen treat.
  • Smoothies – Mix together some fruits, yogurt, and ice to make a healthy and satisfying drink.
  • Fruit Popsicles – Blend some fruit with water or juice, pour into popsicle molds, and freeze for an icy treat.

Other non-dairy options for sore throats include:

  • Sorbet – A light and refreshing frozen dessert made from fruit and sugar.
  • Fruit Purees – Blend some fruit and honey into a puree, then chill for a healthy and cooling dessert.
  • Frozen Yogurt – Use non-dairy yogurt as a replacement for traditional yogurt to enjoy the cooling sensation without the mucus production.

It’s important to stay hydrated when you have a sore throat, so be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Warm tea with honey can help soothe a sore throat, while cold water can provide relief from inflammation. Experiment with different options until you find the perfect non-dairy alternative to ice cream for your sore throat.

Food Type Good for Sore Throats? Notes
Frozen Fruit Yes Blend with water or juice for a refreshing treat
Smoothies Yes Use non-dairy yogurt as a replacement to avoid mucus production
Fruit Popsicles Yes Blend fruit with water or juice, and freeze in popsicle molds
Sorbet Yes Made from fruit and sugar, it’s a refreshing alternative to ice cream
Fruit Purees Yes Blend fruit and honey into a puree, and chill for a healthy dessert
Frozen Yogurt Yes Use non-dairy yogurt as a replacement to avoid mucus production

Don’t let a sore throat keep you from enjoying your favorite frozen treats. With these non-dairy alternatives to ice cream, you can enjoy a cool and refreshing dessert without worsening your cough.

Benefits of consuming hot drinks when sick

When we’re sick, it’s essential to take care of our bodies, and one way to do that is by consuming hot drinks. These drinks provide many benefits that can help us feel better and speed up our recovery process. Here are eight benefits of consuming hot drinks when sick:

  • Relieves congestion: Hot drinks like tea or broth have a steamy vapor that can help loosen mucus in the nasal passages and throat, making it easier to breathe.
  • Soothes sore throat: A hot drink can soothe a sore throat by helping to reduce inflammation and irritation in the area.
  • Boosts hydration: Staying hydrated is critical when we’re sick, and hot drinks can help make drinking enough fluids more enjoyable.
  • Improves digestion: Consuming hot drinks like ginger tea or bone broth can calm an upset stomach and promote healthy digestion.
  • Aids in sleep: A hot cup of tea before bed can help relax the body and promote restful sleep.
  • Provides vitamins and minerals: Many hot drinks like tea or chicken soup contain vitamins and minerals that can help boost the immune system and support overall health.
  • Comforting: Sipping on a warm drink can provide comfort and help reduce stress levels, which can also benefit our overall health.
  • Alternative to cold drinks: Consuming cold drinks can irritate a sore throat and lead to further congestion. Hot drinks provide a suitable alternative that can help alleviate symptoms.

Overall, consuming hot drinks when sick can provide numerous benefits to our health and well-being. So next time you’re feeling under the weather, reach for a hot cup of tea or broth and give your body the extra care it needs to recover.

Role of hydration in treating coughs

Adequate hydration is essential in treating coughs caused by respiratory infections, allergies, and other irritants. Drinking plenty of fluids can help thin the mucus in the airways, making it easier to cough up and relieve congestion. Additionally, keeping the body hydrated can support the immune system and prevent further complications.

  • Water is a great choice for staying hydrated when dealing with a cough.
  • Warm fluids like tea, broth, and soup can help soothe the throat and provide comfort.
  • Fruit juices can be a good source of vitamins and antioxidants; however, they should be diluted to prevent excess sugar intake.

It’s important to avoid dehydrating substances such as alcohol and caffeine, which can increase urine output and lead to dehydration. Additionally, avoiding sugary and carbonated drinks can help prevent further irritation of the airways.

For those with a persistent cough, a humidifier may be helpful to add moisture to the air and prevent further irritation of the throat and lungs. Consult with a healthcare provider to determine the appropriate treatment plan for your specific situation.

Fluids to drink Fluids to avoid
Water Alcohol
Tea Caffeinated drinks
Broth Sugary drinks
Soup Carbonated drinks
Diluted fruit juices

Remember to stay hydrated when dealing with a cough to promote healing and decrease discomfort.

Impact of temperature on coughing frequency

Temperature plays a significant role in the frequency and severity of coughing episodes. Cold weather is often associated with an increase in coughing, while warm weather may bring some relief to those who suffer from chronic coughs.

There are a few reasons for this phenomenon. Firstly, cold weather can cause airways to become irritated and constrict, leading to coughing and difficulty breathing. Additionally, lower temperatures can dry out the airways, making it easier for viruses and other irritants to penetrate the respiratory system.

On the other hand, warmer temperatures can help relax the airways and reduce inflammation. This can help bring relief to those who suffer from chronic coughs or respiratory conditions.

Ways to mitigate the impact of temperature on coughing frequency

  • Dress appropriately in cold weather and cover your mouth and nose with a scarf or mask to help warm and moisten the air you’re breathing in.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, which can help keep the airways moisturized and reduce coughing.
  • Avoid triggers such as cigarette smoke, pollution, and other environmental irritants that can exacerbate coughing, particularly in cold weather.
  • Consider using a humidifier indoors to help moisten the air and reduce coughing.

The role of cold foods and drinks in coughing frequency

Cold foods and drinks, including ice cream, can cause a temporary tightening of the airways, which can lead to coughing. However, the impact of cold foods and drinks on coughing frequency will vary depending on the individual and the underlying cause of the cough.

For someone with a chronic respiratory condition such as asthma, cold foods and drinks may trigger coughing. On the other hand, for someone with a cough caused by a temporary illness such as a cold or flu, consuming cold foods and drinks may not have a significant impact on coughing.


Temperature can have a significant impact on coughing frequency, with cold weather often leading to an increase in coughing episodes. To mitigate the impact of temperature on coughing, it is important to stay hydrated, avoid environmental irritants, and dress appropriately for the weather. While cold foods and drinks such as ice cream can cause a temporary tightening of the airways, their impact on coughing frequency will depend on the individual and the underlying cause of the cough.

Factors that impact coughing frequency: Summary:
Cold temperatures Can cause airways to constrict and dry out, leading to an increase in coughing episodes.
Warm temperatures Can help relax the airways and reduce inflammation, bringing relief to those who suffer from chronic coughs.
Cold foods and drinks May trigger coughing in individuals with chronic respiratory conditions, while their impact on coughing frequency may be minimal in those with temporary illnesses.

Does ice cream make a cough worse? FAQs

1. Is it true that ice cream can worsen a cough?
Some people believe that consuming cold and dairy products, like ice cream, can cause inflammation and make a cough worse. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.

2. Should I stop eating ice cream if I have a cough?
There is no need to stop eating ice cream if you have a cough. Nevertheless, it is important to stay hydrated and avoid foods that can trigger or worsen your respiratory symptoms.

3. Can ice cream cause throat irritation?
Yes, ice cream can cause throat irritation if it is consumed too quickly or if it is too cold. This is why some people who have a cough or sore throat prefer to eat ice cream at room temperature or drink warm fluids instead.

4. Can other dairy products affect my cough?
Like ice cream, other dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt may cause mucus production and worsen coughing symptoms in some individuals. However, this varies from person to person.

5. How can I soothe my throat when I have a cough?
Drinking warm fluids like tea, water, and soup, as well as using a humidifier can help to soothe your throat and alleviate coughing symptoms.

6. When should I see a doctor for my cough?
If your cough lasts longer than a week, is accompanied by a high fever, shortness of breath, chest pain, or if you are coughing up blood, it is important to see a doctor.

7. Can ice cream cure a cough?
No, ice cream cannot cure a cough. The best way to relieve coughing symptoms is by staying hydrated, getting plenty of rest, and addressing any underlying conditions that may be causing the cough.

Closing Thoughts on Does Ice Cream Make a Cough Worse

Now that you have a better understanding of how ice cream may or may not affect your cough, it’s important to remember that every individual’s body is unique. While ice cream may not be a direct cause of a cough worsening, it is always important to listen to your body and avoid eating anything that may exacerbate your symptoms. Thank you for reading and please visit again later for more informative articles!