Is Ice Cream The Secret To Soothing A Sore Throat? What The Science Says

Ice cream may be the secret to a broken heart but could this sweet treat be good for more than just a little pick-me-up following a breakup?

Accounting for anywhere between 2% and 4% of all family physician appointments, an acute sore throat is one of the most common patient ailments doctors see coming through their doors, according to 2011 research published in Canadian Family Physician. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that sore throats can be caused by any number of things from allergies to smoking, a virus, or bacterial infection. A dry, scratchy, painful sore throat can make everyday functions like swallowing, talking, eating, or coughing feel uncomfortable and laborious. To help soothe this irritation, experts often recommend drinking warm fluids like tea or soup broth, but can cold food items  — aka ice cream — provide us this same relief?

Can ice cream help soothe a sore throat?

One way in which a sore throat can manifest is in the aftermath of a surgical procedure, such as a tonsillectomy, in which a patient has their tonsils extracted. Researchers from a 2020 study published in Cureus monitored 50 child tonsillectomy patients between the ages of 3 and 15 who were given either room-temperature food items immediately following the procedure or ice cream. The goal of the study was to determine the efficacy of ice cream in minimizing patient pain after the operation. Research findings showed a strong correlation between eating ice cream and the absence of pain during the immediate surgical recovery period.

On the other hand, results of a 2019 study published in the Iranian Journal of Otorhinolaryngology found no such relationship. Researchers examined more than 100 children who were given either room-temperature foods after a tonsillectomy or cold-served food items. No significant relationship was found between a cold diet and patient pain reduction following the procedure. In fact, some children reported ice cream to be intolerable after a tonsillectomy.

Which ice cream flavors may be best for a sore throat

While ice cream's cold temperature may bring welcome relief for some people fighting off a sore throat, there are ways in which this creamy indulgence may end up working against us. Healthline notes that all that sugary sweetness can prompt inflammation and further aggravate symptoms of a sore throat. Ice cream that's made up of fruity flavors like berry or citrus can do the same due to their high-acid content, adds RN101. Therefore, opt for safe, simple flavors instead like chocolate or vanilla that are free of any crunchy toppings. Even better, try an ice cream that is void of sugar and dairy.

If you'd rather rule out ice cream altogether but you still want something cold to suck on to help alleviate a scratchy throat, consider sugar-free fruit sorbets. Fruit sorbets have the added benefits of containing zero dairy and reduced amounts of fat, which can reduce the likelihood of throat irritation. Depending on the cause, your sore throat may alternatively be better served by popsicles, ice chips, or cough drops, adds the CDC.