Why Does Ice Cream Make Me Cough?

My family and I are big ice cream fanatics. We have ice cream at least once a week. The biggest drawback is that my mom always coughs when she eats ice cream. I decided it was time to find out why ice cream makes her – and others – cough.

Ice cream can cause coughing for a number of reasons. Some significant reasons include dairy allergy (not intolerance), asthma, or acid reflux. However, it may simply be a reaction from your digestive tract’s nerves or thickening mucus in the throat.

Hi! My name is Michelle and ice cream is a regular part of my diet. In fact, it’s my favorite dessert. I was curious about why it made some people (including my mom) cough. I did some research, and today, I’m sharing my findings.

Does ice cream make you cough? Keep reading to find out why!

5 Reasons Ice Cream Makes You Cough

If you love ice cream but can’t help but notice it makes you cough, you likely want to know why.

There are actually several different possibilities.

Let’s take a closer look.

1. You Have a Dairy Allergy

Coughing can be a sign that you’re allergic to ice cream. Well, more specifically, you’re allergic to dairy products

If you have a true allergy to dairy, you’ll notice other symptoms immediately after eating ice cream (and other dairy products), including:

  • Hives
  • Wheezing
  • Itching
  • Tingling around the mouth
  • Swelling around the mouth/throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting

You may also notice other uncomfortable symptoms several hours after consuming ice creams, such as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, runny nose, and watery eyes.

If you have any of these symptoms in conjunction with coughing, there’s a good chance you may be dealing with a dairy allergy. Your best option is to avoid dairy altogether and visit your doctor as soon as possible for a proper diagnosis.

Note: Dairy allergies are different from dairy intolerances (lactose intolerance). Intolerances solely affect the digestive system and cause bloating, gas, nausea/vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea.

2. Your Digestive Tract Nerves are Irritated

You have nerves throughout your entire body – including your digestive tract.

And while these nerves are typically calm and won’t cause you any problems, eating cold food – such as ice cream – can irritate them. 

Essentially, it happens like this: you eat some ice cream. As it enters your digestive system, it comes in contact with various nerves, including the vagus nerve. This nerve is responsible for regulating certain bodily functions, including coughing. If the chill from the ice cream irritates the vagus nerve, you’ll start feeling the urge to cough. 

Honestly, there’s not a whole lot you can do about this. Luckily, it doesn’t cause ongoing issues and should go away relatively quickly – so don’t panic.

3. You Have Asthma

If you have asthma, then you know that many things are triggers. From allergies to air pollution, physical activity to particular weather, there’s a seemingly never-ending list of things that can cause a flare-up.

But did you know that food can trigger asthma, too?

The most common foods that trigger asthma include dried fruits, packaged potatoes, beer, and shrimp. However, some people may also be affected by ice cream.

If you think you’re coughing after eating ice cream due to asthma, I’d suggest laying off the ice cream. It’s not worth the risk.

4. You Have Acid Reflux

Most people associate acid reflux with certain types of food.

For instance, if you’re diving into an ultra-greasy cheeseburger with ten pounds of cheese or dipping your spoon into a piping hot and spicy bowl of chili, you know acid reflux is right around the corner.

Well, for some, ice cream can also trigger acid reflux. This is especially true if you lay down immediately after eating it. That’s because it’s easier for your stomach acid to flow back into your esophagus, causing irritation – including coughing.

5. Your Mucus is Thickening

Your throat continuously produces mucus throughout the day. It’s essential to prevent your airway from drying out, ensuring you can breathe properly. It also protects against germs, pollen, etc.

Obviously, mucus in the throat is a good thing.

But for some people, eating cold items – such as ice cream – causes the mucus in the throat to thicken. This makes it challenging to clear the airways, resulting in coughing after eating ice cream.

How to Stop Coughing After Eating Ice Cream

If you don’t want to give up ice cream for good, the good news is you don’t have to. You can stop coughing after eating ice cream in a couple of different ways.

Note: This only works for subtle coughing after eating ice cream. If you have extensive coughing accompanied by other symptoms, you should visit your doctor and avoid eating ice cream. This is also true if ice cream is causing an asthma attack or acid reflux.

For minor coughing after eating ice cream, try these tricks.

1. Drink a Glass of Water

Water is essential to our well-being. As Leonardo da Vinci said,  “Water is the driving force of all nature.”

But it can also be the go-to remedy for several situations, including coughing after ice cream.

If you feel a cough coming on after eating ice cream, grab a glass of water and chug it down. The water will remove the irritants from your throat, relieving the feeling of needing to cough.

So easy!

2. Drink Something Warm

Not in the mood for water? 

Don’t worry; there’s another option: drink something warm.

This is an excellent tip from my mom. She likes to have some warm tea nearby whenever she eats ice cream. The warmth helps to soothe the throat, ensuring you won’t feel the urge to cough after eating ice cream.

Any warm beverage will do!

3. Gargle Some Saltwater

My last tip is to gargle some salt water.

Salt is incredibly healing thanks to its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Gargling will help to remove irritants and calm the throat, eliminating that pesky cough.

I add about a tablespoon of salt to a cup of warm water. Gargle for about 30 seconds, then spit. (Don’t swallow!)

4. Eat Vegan Ice Cream

OK, so this won’t help you stop the cough if you’ve already eaten “regular” dairy ice cream.

But this is a great way to avoid coughing outright – while still getting to enjoy a delicious bowl of ice cream.

Van Leeuwen, McConnell’s, Jeni’s, Wicked Kitchen, and So Delicious are some of the best vegan ice cream brands to check out. Ben & Jerry’s, Häagen-Dazs, and Breyers have also jumped on the vegan ice cream bandwagon and now have several dairy-free flavors.


I hope I have solved the puzzle “Why does ice cream make me cough.” If you want to learn more about this interesting topic, I have included some frequently asked questions below. Let’s dive in!

Can ice cream cause a cough?

Believe it or not, ice cream can cause a cough. However, the cough is almost always a symptom of something else. For example, you may have a dairy allergy, acid reflux, or asthma. 

Why do I have a coughing fit after eating dairy?

If you notice extensive coughing after eating any type of dairy, there’s a high likelihood that you have a dairy allergy – not a dairy intolerance. For this type of occurrence, it’s best to get a diagnosis from a doctor.

Does ice cream make phlegm worse?

Ice cream can cause an increase in phlegm production, therefore making it “worse.” 

Ice Cream is Delicious, But it Can Cause Coughing Spells

For some people, a bowl of ice cream comes with plenty of coughing. If minor coughing is the only symptom, it’s likely due to mucus thickening in the throat or your digestive tract’s nerves reacting to the cold. More severe conditions include asthma, dairy allergies, or acid reflux.

Does ice cream make you cough? Why?

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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