Does Milk Help A Sore Throat

In this brief article, we will be answering the question “does milk help a sore throat?”, as well as what foods you can eat and should avoid if you have a sore throat, and some tips to treat a sore throat. 

Does Milk Help A Sore Throat?

Yes, a hot glass of milk can provide relief to a sore throat and other symptoms of flu, according to research studies (4).

The ingestion of hot drinks may provide immediate and sustained relief from symptoms of runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chilliness and tiredness, whereas the same drink at room temperature only provided relief from symptoms of runny nose, cough and sneezing.

Does Milk Help Relieve Cold Symptoms?

Yes, milk does provide relief to the symptoms of cold, such as a sore throat and the production of phlegm. This is particularly so in patients with conditions associated with excess mucus, for example, cystic fibrosis and primary ciliary dyskinesia, but also includes children with infant wheeze or asthma (1).

Phlegm is the sticky and thick mucus that drips down your throat during a cold and causes repeated cough and difficulty breathing. 

People often believe that drinking milk during a cold increases phlegm. In fact, dairy might thicken or enhance mucus production in certain individuals, prompting you to clear your throat now and then and aggravating it. Milk is an emulsion (defined as a suspension of droplets of one liquid in another) of fat in water, and emulsions mix with saliva. Saliva induces the formation of aggregates that increase viscosity and increase volume, and that could well affect the sensory perception of milk mixed with saliva, when small amounts of emulsions remain in the mouth after swallowing (1).

However, there is NO scientific evidence to back this claim. Instead, the results of a small study revealed the following:

  • There was no increase in phlegm production among people who consumed milk during a cold.
  • Self-reported problems regarding mucus production were the same among people drinking milk or drinking soy milk.
  • Asthmatic children, who generally restrict milk intake to prevent the production of excessive phlegm, experienced no significant differences in breathing whether they consumed milk or soy milk.
  • Drinking milk did not cause bronchoconstriction or respiratory symptoms in two studies of non-milk allergic asthmatic adults and pulmonary diffusing capacity was significantly and progressively lowered by a mean of 21% over 3 hours in the asthmatics who drank the full fat milk.

These observations demonstrate that drinking milk or consuming dairy products does not affect the production of phlegm and will not aggravate a sore throat (1). 

So try it out for yourself, and if it works for you, enjoy a cold and nutritious glass of milk to soothe your irritated throat. 

Is Hot Milk Better to Help Relieve Cold Symptoms?

Yes, hot drinks are more effective by relieving common cold symptoms. In a study, patients having cold symptoms were treated either with hot drinks or drinks at room temperature. The symptoms decreased in severity in the case of patients who ingested hot drinks with immediate effects on cough, sore throat, chilliness and tiredness, and relief at 15 minutes after the hot drink for runny nose and sneezing. The symptom relief was still significant for 30 minutes after the hot drink for all of the symptoms except tiredness. 

The same was not observed in the case of patients who ingested drinks at room temperature. Only three of the symptoms were relieved with the room temperature drink: runny nose, cough and sneezing.

The decrease in symptoms is due to the drink’s effect on salivation and mucus secretion in the airways, promoting relief. The taste and temperature of the beverage can result in this physiological effect, where it is especially effective for relieving coughs and sore throats (4).

What Foods Can You Have With A Sore Throat?

Foods that you can have with a sore throat are those which are generally easy to consume. You should eat warm, soft, and easy-to-swallow foods, like milk, when you have a sore throat. The texture of these foods doesn’t irritate the throat, and their warmth helps soothe the lining of the throat. Changing the texture of foods and avoiding certain foods and liquids can make it easier to eat and drink while keeping them nutritious (2).

Below are examples of foods other than milk that you can have with a sore throat. Apart from providing relief, eating and drinking these foods will help you to stay nourished as well.

  • warm, cooked pasta, such as macaroni and cheese
  • mashed potatoes
  • warm, cooked oatmeal, cereal, or grits
  • gelatin-based desserts
  • plain yogurt
  • yogurt containing pureed fruits
  • sautéed or cooked vegetables
  • vegetable or fruit smoothies
  • warm cream-based soups
  • warm broth
  • non-acidic juices (grape, apple)
  • hard-boiled or scrambled eggs
  • popsicles
  • ready-made infant foods
  • cottage cheese
  • adding a beaten egg to broth or soup while it is cooking

What Foods Should You Avoid With A Sore Throat?

Foods you should avoid with a sore throat are the ones that are able to irritate your throat. Avoid consuming foods that are hard, chewy, and spicy (2). 

Examples include:

  • crackers
  • bread with a hard crust
  • spicy sauces and seasonings 
  • acidic drinks, such as sodas, alcohol, and coffee
  • dry snacks, such as popcorn, potato chips, and pretzels
  • raw vegetables
  • acidic fruits, such as lemons and limes, oranges, tomatoes, and grapefruits

How Can You Treat A Sore Throat?

To treat a sore throat, you can use both home remedies and pharmaceutical medications. Here are a few additional tips provided by the Iowa State University (3) that have proven to provide relief from a sore throat.

  • Gargling with warm salt water is a cost-effective and the most commonly recommended method to treat a sore throat. Mix about a tablespoon of salt in eight ounces of warm water. Take a few sips, tilt your head back, gargle, spit it out, and repeat.
  • Herbal remedies such as throat sprays, drops, or teas containing garlic and licorice root can also help relieve a sore throat. However, always ensure that you are not allergic to any active ingredient and are not taking any medications that could interact with the herbal ingredients and cause unpleasant side effects. 
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medication available at drugstores or grocery stores can also help. These include throat lozenges that coat the irritated throat and provide temporary relief. 
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol), a mild pain reliever, is also recommended to provide relief from the minor aches and pains that often accompany a sore throat.
  • Increasing fluids and sipping warm liquids throughout the day, such as tea with lemon and honey, apple juice
  • or sucking on flavored ice can also help with discomfort.
  • If you are a smoker, decreasing or stopping will help, by not drying out the membranes in the throat.
  • Using a humidifier or vaporizer at night while sleeping to keep air moist. 

If nothing seems to be working out for you, and your sore throat persists without any long-term relief, you might need a prescription medication to treat an underlying problem. It’s best to consult your doctor in this scenario. 


In this brief article, we answered the question “Does milk help a sore throat?” as well as what foods you can eat and should avoid if you have a sore throat, and some tips to treat a sore throat. 

If you have any questions and comments please let us know.


(1). Balfour-Lynn, Ian M. Milk, mucus and myths. Archives Dis Childhood, 2019, 104, 91-93.

(2) Eating Tips for Sore Mouth and Throat – University Health Network, 2019, Toronto

(3) Sore throat home treatment. Iowa State University.

(4) Sanu, A., and Ronald Eccles. The effects of a hot drink on nasal airflow and symptoms of common cold and flu. Rhinology, 2008, 46, 271.