Eating ice cream makes me cough sometimes

Photo of woman wearing a scarf outdoors

Leah, 59 years old

"The doctor checked my lung function and I described my symptoms to her. It turned out that I had probably had asthma for a long time without knowing it."

For as long as I can remember, I've had an odd, mild cough. In the mornings I always used to spend a long time clearing my throat. On some days I found it difficult to breathe properly. Whenever I walked uphill I would quickly become exhausted. I just considered it to be normal for me.

In the winter, when I go from a warm room into the cold outside, it always makes me cough. Eating ice cream also makes me cough sometimes. I used to wonder why that was. When I asked about it, my doctor said that I had sensitive airways, but he never referred me to a lung specialist.

I've had hay fever since about my fourth year at school. Once, when I was a young woman, I was sent home early from a gym class because I had a strange cough. When I got home my eyelids became really swollen. This started happening more often, particularly in the springtime.

At least then I knew where my symptoms came from

Roughly three years ago I was prescribed a certain drug and had to have an test done to see whether I would be able to tolerate it. The doctor checked my lung function and I described my symptoms to her. It turned out that I had probably had for a long time without knowing it.

At first I was surprised by the . But after thinking about it for a while, I came to terms with it. After all, I had already had for quite some time and had managed to live with it. At least then I knew where my symptoms came from, which was a relief. I no longer had to worry about the reasons and causes.

Luckily, it didn’t take long to find the right medication for me. I use steroid-based medication. At first I only used it once a day, but after a while the symptoms returned and I started having to clear my throat more often again. Since then I've been using it religiously twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening. I'm happy with my treatment.

So far I've only had serious breathing difficulties once, brought on by an upsetting situation. My doctor prescribed me a rescue inhaler for when this happens. So I used that. I’m not really afraid of having attacks.

I still have to learn how to pace myself

Back then my doctor recommended that I join a sports club, focusing on exercises which help to improve lung function. I go there once a week. I’m generally not a sporty person, but I learned about Nordic Walking there, and every now and again I go on a bike ride. In my opinion it's especially important that there's a doctor there too, who gives presentations on related topics every once in a while and is available for questions. We're often given advice on how to breathe properly. I find that very important.

I still have to learn how to pace myself. If I walk even slightly uphill at a brisk pace, I already start having difficulties. On level ground, though, brisk walking isn't a problem at all. Being active has definitely had a positive effect. My physical stamina has improved, and the doctors say that I have a surprisingly good lung capacity.

I used to smoke, which I believe is one of the reasons why I am so sensitive to cigarette smoke now. If we go out for a meal, we try to go early in the hope that there won’t be many people there and that no-one will be smoking. Otherwise the smoke makes me cough after a while. It would be wonderful if smoking were banned in restaurants and pubs.

I also used to wonder why I'd always get such a strange cough whenever I had salmon or smoked fish accompanied by wine or sparkling wine at parties. It's difficult to describe, but it sort of felt like it came from my stomach. I now know that my body can't tolerate high levels of histamine, and that certain types of sparkling wine agree with me, while others don’t.

Nowadays I go to my doctor for a check-up once a year and talk to her about how I'm getting on. If I started feeling unwell or noticed that something wasn’t quite right, I wouldn’t hesitate to make an appointment to see her.


Our real-life stories summarize interviews with people who are affected by the medical condition. Our interview partners have given us permission to publish their stories. We would like to express our sincere thanks to them.

The real-life stories give an insight into how other people cope and live with a medical condition. Their opinions and comments are not recommendations by IQWiG.

Please note: The names of our interview partners have been changed to protect their identity. The photos are of models.

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Updated on July 20, 2022

Next planned update: 2025


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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