Why Do I Cough When I Eat Ice Cream? 6 Causes Behind Coughing

Reasons for coughing after having ice cream could be an allergy from any ingredient in it, reflux, bronchospasm, asthma, mucus hardening, or just plain old throat infection. Eating ice cream or drinking something cold could trigger a reflexive cough action. Finding out the reason can be based on your medical, family, and social history too.

It could be a real hassle for ice cream lovers if you suddenly start coughing after having your favorite ice cream. If being cold is the issue, then eating and drinking anything cold can generate these coughs. If you cough after having ice cream every time, that could be problematic.

Although coughing occurs when there is something that irritates your throat to start coughing to expel it, it can be frustrating to go through it. If there are several bouts of coughing, you definitely need to find the cause behind such long coughs.

6 causes behind coughing

1) Allergy

The most common reason you are coughing could be due to an allergy. If you notice you’re coughing after having ice cream, it could be due to an allergy to milk products. You can quickly get to know if that’s the case since you can notice this allergy acting up when you will consume other products with dairy in it.

Coughing due to allergy occurs when our body is allergic to certain foods and drinks. It reacts to the potential threats to be eliminated instantly in this way. It’s just a warning sign that something harmful to our body has entered it, signaled by coughing as our immune system starts acting up.

If not milk, then pay attention to other ingredients of the ice cream. If there are nuts, it could be a nut allergy. Or it could be a hidden ingredient that you never knew you were allergic to.


A young woman is sitting in bed, trying to relieve her upper chest pain after having ice cream. This could be a sign of GERD.

GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) could be another possible cause of this cough. It is the reason behind a lot of unexplained coughs, especially after your meals. Basically, it could be any food item or drink causing this cough, but it so happens to be right after eating ice cream for you.

A sure sign to tell if it is caused by GERD is when you feel pain in your chest or the upper part of your tummy while coughing. If yes, then it’s caused by GERD.

To explain in simple terms, some of the acid produced in the stomach tends to backflow into the esophagus. This is caused because ingestion of food or drinks increases acid production and the volume of the stomach’s content.

The more your stomach is full, the higher chances of it happening. The acid irritated your throat, causing cough and chest pain.

3) Bronchospasm

It is a condition where the sudden tightening of the muscles that line the airways takes place—this further results in narrowing the airways and ultimately breathing difficulties and coughs.

It is common in people with asthma and allergies, occurring in nearly 5-10% of people. Although if you don’t face these issues, it could be that your throat is sensitive and, when exposed to a sudden cold temperature, reacts by coughing.

4) Asthma

A young woman is using an inhaler after eating ice cream because she's started feeling chest pain.

The biggest culprit of them all is the easiest to understand why the coughing occurs after having ice cream. Sometimes the sudden cold temperature is enough to trigger coughing, just like drinking a cold drink fast can cause brain freeze.

People with asthma are susceptible to various things around them, like pollen, dust, smoke, and stress, which causes problems in their daily lives. Eating something cold can also cause them difficulty in breathing and chest tightening.

5) Mucus hardening

As you eat your ice cream, it travels down the esophagus connected with the trachea (windpipe). The ice cream, cold in nature, causes the trachea to cool down, leading to thickening and solidification of the mucus present in the trachea.

What actually happens is, the mucus in your trachea sweeps back to your throat to clean up the airway. But as the mucus thickens, coming in contact with ice cream, your body reacts to it by coughing until the thickened mucus has been removed.

The ice cream, not so fluid in nature, goes down slowly through your esophagus, taking more time to cool your trachea and thickening the mucus content.

If you remember, when you suddenly gulp down big bites of ice cream, you experience sudden chest and throat pain because ice cream is thick and trickles slowly down your throat.

6) Throat infection

Obviously, suppose you have a throat infection. In that case, you will definitely experience coughing and other side effects as you try to eat ice cream or even have a cold drink.

With infection, your throat has become sensitive and swollen. Anything cold in nature, such as ice cream, is bad during this time. Eating it would only trigger a response of bouts of coughing. So, take better care of your throat.

Even if you feel there is a slight problem, avoid anything cold for a while.

How do I make my cough go away?

Causes of coughing could be many, but what next? Let’s try to find some ways to soothe this coughing and make it go away.

A young woman is drinking room temperature water to relieve her chest pain after having some ice cream.
  • Drink water – The first thing you can do very quickly is just drinking water. It will wash down any irritant down your throat, clearing the passageway.
  • Take some honey – It soothes the scratchy feeling in your throat.
  • Have a warm drink – Anything warm helps your throat in calming down.
  • Rinse your nose
  • Lemon honey water

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why do I cough after eating dairy products?

It could be an allergic reaction of your body towards the dairy, a way to tell you that dairy isn’t suited to your body. If that’s the case, avoid dairy as much as possible.

Does lemon water help with cough?

Drinking lemon water surely does help your throat in calming down. You can even mix honey in it to make it taste better.

Why do I cough every time I eat?

Either you’re not eating and swallowing your food correctly, or you’re experiencing GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). When you’re too full, and so the ingestion of any food or drink on top of a full stomach makes the acid in your stomach come back to your throat, causing irritation and results in coughing.

Is cold water bad for cough?

The best way to deal with an irritated esophagus is to soothe it down with lots of fluids, be it water or juice. Lemon honey water is a go-to option if you can make it. Drinking cold water can cause more irritation to your throat. So, prefer normal or warm water instead.

What causes the tickle in throat that causes coughing?

The mucous could be causing irritation, the esophagus or the trachea. A throat tickle is linked to a medical condition or something in your environment. You might experience it because of extra mucous in the throat or an outside irritant.

To summarize

The coughing caused in the throat after having ice cream could be due to multiple reasons. It is for sure that it is a way of your body to convey to you that something is wrong. Be it a dairy allergy, reflux, or just a sore throat. Your body communicates it via coughing.

Coughing could either just go away on its own or could last longer, depending on its causes. If someone with asthma has ice cream and coughs, that could relay how severe the situation is for them right now.

There are always a couple of ways to stop your mild or little coughing, amongst which water solves most of them. So, even if you’re outside where lemon honey water can’t be accessed, just plain water would do the trick!

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