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 cold glass of milk can provide relief to a sore throat, according to Dr. Baugh of the Mayoclinic.org.

Milk will also provide the calories and nutrients you need at this time since you might not feel like eating anything.

Does Milk Help Relieve Cold Symptoms?

Contrary to popular belief, 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. 

What Foods Can You Have With A Sore Throat?

It is generally easy to consume 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?

Avoid consuming foods that could further irritate your throat and make it even more difficult to swallow. These foods include hard, chewy, and spicy items (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?

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. 

Other FAQs about Milk that you may be interested in.

Can I substitute sweetened condensed milk for milk?

Conclusion

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.

References

(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.

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.