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Ice cream cough could just be the cold, but maybe not

Ice cream cough could just be the cold, but maybe not

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Q. When I eat ice cream (malts, shakes, etc.), I always seem to cough afterwards. I know that I am not lactose intolerant. I’ve talked to other friends who say the same thing happens to them. Is it normal? Can you tell me what causes people to cough after eating ice cream? — Milan reader

A. It is always best to consult your own primary-care physician with questions about your health. We contacted Genesis Health System and UnityPoint Health-Trinity for more information. The information provided below is general in nature, and you still should consult your own doctor with any health concerns.

Here is a response from Jason Hagemann, D.O., and Christopher Crome, M.D., both with Genesis Health Group:

"This is likely a reaction to the cold. The cold of the ice cream may activate hypersensitive cough receptors in some. Some people also cough reflexively when stepping into the winter cold from a warm home or car. If you are concerned, or it begins to happen more frequently, ask your primary care physician about this at your next visit.''

Teresa Thoensen, marketing and communications specialist with UnityPoint Health-Trinity, said:

"It is important to note that this is general information and should not take the place of the person consulting with their primary care physician to discuss their condition and treatment.

"Coughing after eating ice-cream could be caused by many things. An irritation in the throat usually causes a cough. Finding out what the irritant is is the key to knowing why this happens. Eating ice cream or drinking something cold could trigger a reflexive cough action. Dairy products can sometimes induce mucus, which becomes an irritant and leads to coughing. In combination with cold temperature, the mucus can become thicker and can induce a cough to clear the throat. If it happens often, it could also be a sign of an underlying chronic condition or disorder, for example gastroesophageal reflex disease (GERD). Finally, it could also be a mild case of asthma or allergies. Finding out the reason can be determined based off the patient’s medical history, family history, social history and setting when it occurs. Again, to determine the exact cause and treatment options, please contact your primary care physician."

Follow-up file:

We received a question recently from a DeWitt, Iowa, reader about bull shark sightings in the Mississippi River. According to an account published in In-Fisherman and National Geographic, a bull shark was caught in 1937 by two commercial fishermen at Alton, Ill., near St. Louis. To read the full article, visit

We also contacted both the Iowa and Illinois departments of natural resources for information about any other Mississippi River shark sightings or captures. We received a response last week from the webmaster for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, or DNR:

"I checked with one of our fisheries biologists and he said that in 37 years of service with the DNR, there has never been any reported catch of a bull shark in Iowa. You can double-check with the Illinois DNR or Missouri Department of Conservation; however, it would be extremely rare if they had a reported bull shark catch."

We have not yet received a response from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, but will include any information they might send in another follow-up.


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