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Do You Cough After Having Ice Cream? Know the Reasons

The ice cream truck that circled the neighbourhood every afternoon is probably the most pleasing memory of every millennial kid. Unfortunately, being somebody who’s sensitive to all sorts of frozen food and drink from childhood, I can relate to how awful it becomes when you can’t have your fair share of this sugary delight. And why is that? Just because you cough after having ice cream! 

This brings up today’s concern- why does ice cream make me cough? 

It can occur if you are lactose intolerant, allergic to the ingredients in ice cream if you have asthma, cold allergy and various other causes. Most of these conditions are manageable with proper treatment and medications. 

This article contains exactly what you need to learn. So, buckle up!  

Coughing due to allergy occurs if you are allergic to a specific food product. It’s like a sign that a potential threat has interfered with your immune system and triggered this reflex action.

Table of Content

Why Does Ice Cream Make Me Cough?

Ice cream has got to be one of the most popular frozen desserts for people of all ages. I mean who doesn’t like its smooth and creamy texture that melts in the mouth? While everybody is a big fan of ice creams and gelatos, a certain group of people would choose not to have them since they don’t wanna undergo the outcome of having this yummy dessert. The sore throat, the annoying runny nose, the coughing, worst case – an allergic reaction to its dairy constituents and so on. 


Consider yourself blessed if you have barely ever coughed or felt mild irritation after consuming ice cream. This can vary from one person to the other because no “body” is the same. 

It kills me seeing all my friends taking gallons of chocolate sundaes and I have to resist the urge of not having my fav butterscotch cone because I cough nonstop ugh! I bet a lot of you can relate to my condition since this is not uncommon. It can occur to anybody. Here are some of the probable reasons why you cough after having ice cream.


Coughing due to allergy occurs if you are allergic to a specific food product. It’s like a sign that a potential threat has interfered with your immune system and triggered this reflex action. The commonest allergen is milk and other dairy products. 

This happens invariably if you are lactose intolerant. Ice creams, or let’s say most frozen desserts contain some portion of dairy products. Besides, many ice creams contain nuts which is another notorious allergen. Therefore, keep an eye on the ingredients of the ice cream you are having. If you do not know what caused the allergy, visit a medical consultant to get checked.

Does that mean you cannot have ice creams? don’t worry. There are tons of non-dairy options for you to relish your taste buds. 


When you consume food that has been stored in extremely cold temperatures, lower than that of your body’s internal environment, the sudden exposure can cause the muscles of the respiratory tract to tighten and produce coughing.

You may view it as your body’s natural and spontaneous response to a frigid temperature that irritates the upper airway. Hence, it’s not always asthma or allergic reaction. You may cough as a result of having any frozen food or drink

Mucus Hardening 

As you take a spoonful, or a mouthful, of any frozen dessert, you may observe slight irritation at the back of your throat. This happens because the mucus thickens. There is confusion among most people regarding increased mucus production, whereas it only thickens than before. 


Besides, if the product you are having contains coffee or chocolate, it may contribute to thickening of mucus as well. To prevent mucus thickening, you can keep the box of ice cream out of the freezer a couple of minutes before you consume it. 


Gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD) Is the condition in which food and acid from the stomach go back into the esophagus. This may cause discomfort in the chest, heartburn, unexplained cough and a feeling that something is stuck in the mouth. 

Dairy products like ice cream have a high content of fat which may cause heartburn. So if you have GERD, having such dairy products can aggravate the symptoms. Moreover, frozen foods can inhibit the functions of the lower oesophagal sphincter. But no need to worry because GERD is not life-threatening.  

The extremely low temperature can irritate the cells on the mucosal surface. As a result, mucus may thicken and you suffer coughing. 

Infection in the Throat and Surrounding Areas

This one is pretty obvious. You are supposed to cough if you have any sort of infection in your throat. You can experience excessive coughing, pain, swollen tonsils etc. Upper respiratory tract infections caused by various bacteria and viruses can make you cough because the cold temperature can worsen swelling. 

Having ice cream while having a throat infection will only trigger your body’s response and produce bouts of coughing. Hence, keep yourself away from the boxes of ice cream in your refrigerator until you recover!


Now you need to be extra cautious if you have asthma. People with asthma are susceptible to various types of allergens (pollen, dust, specific food etc) Ingesting cold food and drink can trigger cough if you have asthma. Sometimes it gets so terrible that people are rushed to clinics! 


You may experience tightness in your chest, wheezing and breathlessness if you have acute attacks of asthma. A lot of ice creams contain artificial sweeteners which top the list of foods that trigger asthma. So, it’s better to avoid ice cream or other frozen desserts. 

How Does It Happen?

Coughing is basically a reflex reaction caused by irritants like foods, dust, smoke or the production of excess mucus. Any cold food, be it ice cream or your favorite flavor of gelato, may induce coughing. The extremely low temperature can irritate the cells on the mucosal surface. As a result, mucus may thicken and you suffer coughing. 

How to Stop Coughing After Having Ice Cream?

Here are a few things you can do to stop yourself from coughing:

  • Gargle warm water mixed with salt.
  • Steam inhalation. This should be avoided if you have asthma
  • Take an expectorant which can help you cough excess mucus and weak breathing easier.
  • You may also need antibiotics or antiviral medicines if you have a bad throat infection.
  • Use a humidifier to make the mucus thin.
  • Avoid smoking and inhaling irritants like dust or perfumes temporarily.
  • Take tea with honey, lemon, ginger or mint. This eases the irritation in the throat.
  • Apply eucalyptus oil to the chest. This induces a cooling sensation that helps to subside the pain. 
  • Keep yourself hydrated and eat warm food like soup

But I Love Ice Cream So Am I Supposed to Stop Having It?

Of course not. Ice cream is a high-calorie and heavy dairy product itself, filled with tons of carbohydrates and sugar. In case you are lactose intolerant you should be meticulous about what you are having. Nowadays, a lot of non-dairy ice creams are available in the market. You may also try sorbet and popsicles  that contain relatively no dairy constituents.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does cold food and water make you cough? 

Occasionally when your body is exposed to foods at extremely low temperatures, the cells in the digestive tract get stimulated and ultimately trigger coughing reflexes.

Is Cold Water good for your health?

Researchers suggest cold water can worsen symptoms in people with achalasia, additionally inducing migraine and headaches. However, studies say physically fit athletes after drinking cold water during exercise observed a reduction in the rise in core body temperature compared to others drinking normal water.

Is hot water good for coughing? 

Yes, hot water is good as it relieves irritation in your throat. It works like magic, often you might not even require medications. Adding a little portion of honey and squeezing lemon juice onto your hot water soothes your throat and temporarily relieves the pain if you have any, although the latter step is optional.

Can I have other frozen desserts instead of ice cream to prevent coughing? 

Any frozen dessert can make you cough if your body is intolerant to extremely low temperatures. But if you are also lactose intolerant, then you have to go for non-dairy options like fruit-flavoured popsicles or sorbet. 

Cold food or drink can cure a common cold- A myth or a fact?

Cold food or chilled drinks can decrease the heart rate and stimulate the vagus nerve which controls the involuntary function of the body. Additionally, chilled water if they are taken immediately after a meal can interfere with fat metabolism. 

The Endnote 

Did you learn what you’re peeking for? I believe you are satisfied with the answer to why does ice cream make me cough. 

It’s vital to remember that you must avoid such frozen foods if you’re lactose intolerant or if you have asthma. I know it’s hard to resist the temptation of having your favourite dessert but trust me, other options aren’t that bad. You need to be attentive before having ice cream. After all, your health is your greatest asset.

Wishing you all a happy and wholesome life. Stay tuned peeps!

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