Is ice cream good or bad for a sore throat?

At some point in our lives we have all suffered from a sore throat, and from personal experience I know how much agony the first few days can be. Swallowing causes you extreme pain, you can barely speak and you just want the discomfort to go away.

There are a number of different causes for a sore throat:

  • Viruses that cause viral infections such as the flu, mononucleosis, measles and chickenpox
  • Bacteria that cause bacterial infections such as strep throat, diphtheria and whooping cough
  • Environmental factors such as allergies, dry air, cigarette smoke and yelling
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), which is when acid in the stomach flows back into your esophagus

The vast majority of sore throats are caused by viruses, which is why most people associate sore throats with the flu.

Unfortunately at the moment, there is no known way to get rid of a sore throat immediately, you will need to let your body heal itself on its own. That being said, there are a number of different things you can do to help ease the discomfort.

There are two groups of people when it comes to ice cream as a source of relief for sore throats. The first say it is the best thing to eat whereas the second say you should stay away from it at all costs. So which group is correct?

First the pros. Because ice cream is so cold and soft, it could help soothe your throat and get rid of the irritation for a little while, by reducing inflammation. Also when you are sick you don’t feel like eating anything, however most people (children especially) will not refuse ice cream, thanks to its delicious taste. It therefore is a source of calories (mind you, not the healthiest kind!). Plain flavours of ice cream with a smooth consistency (i.e. those without toppings such as nuts) work best.

On the other hand, store bought ice cream contains a lot of sugar. Bacteria and viruses love sugar as it is their main source of energy. If the sugar is not washed away from your throat (e.g. by drinking a glass of water), it will remain there and could cause the swelling to worsen. Additionally, although studies have shown that dairy does not lead to more mucus production, it can make your phlegm thicker, which can lead to more irritation.

So should you have ice cream when trying to soothe your sore throat? I would say have a little bit, but don’t overindulge. Half a scoop, just enough to provide some relief. Also, drink a glass of water to help clear the sugar from your throat. Then wait and see if you feel some relief. If you do, great! However if your symptoms worsen, don’t have any more, there are other ways you can help relieve the discomfort from a sore throat, as we will discuss below.

Other ways to soothe a sore throat


Gargle with warm salt water – this is probably one of the oldest known remedies and for good reason. When you have a sore throat, cells in your mucous membranes are swollen. Salt absorbs water really well and therefore helps shrink the swollen cells, thereby easing the pain. It also washes away excess mucus. You can also add in a teaspoon of turmeric, it is an excellent anti-inflammatory.

Drink honey and lemon –  similar to salt, honey helps draw out water from inflamed cells. It also has antibacterial properties and has been shown to be effective at relieving coughing in children. To make the drink simply add a tablespoon of honey and a teaspoon of lemon juice to a cup of hot water and stir well before drinking.

Suck on lozenges – lozenges can provide temporary relief from a sore throat by stimulating saliva production, helping to keep your throat moist. Throat sprays can also help reduce the pain temporarily due to their “cooling” effect.

Marshmallow root tea – I’m not talking about the white fluffy treat you roast over campfires, I’m talking about the herb. The root contains a substance called mucilage which when mixed with water forms a gel that coats your throat and could reduce irritation. A recent study showed that marshmallow helps soothe irritated mucous membranes. To prepare the tea, add one tablespoon of the root to some boiling water and let it steep before drinking.

Licorice root tea – another root obtained from a herb, it is used to make the sweet tasting candy licorice. This study found that licorice is effective at reducing the severity of a sore throat. In a similar way to marshmallow root, you can make licorice root tea at home.

Steam – steaming can reduce dryness and ease congestion. If you don’t have the energy to go to your gym, you can also steam at home. Simply boil a kettle full of water and pour it into a bowl, adding in a few drops of menthol or eucalyptus oil. Place a towel over your head, making sure it covers the bowl and inhale the fumes.

Suck on some garlic or cloves – garlic is one of the most potent foods out there and brings with it a whole load of benefits. It contains the ingredient allicin, a compound that can kill certain types of bacteria. Cloves contains a substance called eugenol which acts as a natural pain killer and is recommended by dentists to relive pain.

Gargle with hydrogen peroxide – hydrogen peroxide is used as an antiseptic for wounds as it kills bacteria. You can also gargle with it by pouring once cap full of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide into a cup and adding 2 cap fulls of warm water. After gargling, make sure you spit it out and then rinse your mouth thoroughly with some warm water.

Stay hydrated and rest – when you are ill, your body needs to stay hydrated and  well rested as this will help fight off the infection faster. So drink plenty of water and get enough sleep!

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