Clearing Up the Matter: Can Tea Cause Coughing?
Have you ever taken a sip of tea and noticed a tickle in your throat? Maybe it is a common occurrence for you. If so, you are probably pondering the question: can tea cause coughing?
On the surface, this can seem like a ridiculous question, but stranger things have been proven to be true. So, to discover if this is the case or not, here is what you need to know:
Can Tea Irritate Your Throat?
This may seem like a rather odd question. After all, most people drink tea to help soothe a sore throat. So, could it be that tea is just as likely to irritate your throat and cause coughing?
Well, if you suffer from acid reflux or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), tea could be an irritant. Caffeine has a tendency to make acid reflex worse, causing the acid to rise up into the throat. In turn, this results in a sore throat and prolonged bouts of coughing.
Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with acid reflux, caffeine can increase acid production in general. Once again, this can cause irritation in the throat.
The good news is that teas that are lower in caffeine such as white tea and green tea may be less likely to create such an effect. So, you may want to try them as an alternative or switch to a caffeine-free tea instead.
Why Does Tea Make My Throat Scratchy?
Perhaps you don’t suffer from full-blown irritation when you drink tea, maybe it’s more of an itchy sensation. If this is the case, you certainly aren't alone here.
Tea can dry out your mouth and your throat. This has to do with the tannins found in tea. Tannins bind to your saliva, making you feel like your mouth and your throat are quite dry. Eventually, this leads to a scratchy feeling in the throat.
Fortunately, there are ways that you can overcome this to avoid having to give up tea altogether. Milk or skimmed milk can reduce astringency, preventing that scratchy feeling. Another thing to do is to eat a cookie or some other snack with your cup of tea.
The act of chewing stimulates saliva production. In turn, this can help to lubricate both your throat and mouth while you are drinking your tea.
Does Milk Tea Cause Cough?
Some people may find that milk tea is the culprit of their cough – is there any truth to this? Well, despite popular opinion, there isn't any link between milk and mucus production, which can cause some people to develop a cough.
However, because milk is an emulsion it can bind with saliva and change mouthfeel. This means that it can seem like there is more mucus in your throat even though this isn't the case. In turn, this could trigger or worsen a cause. Since soy milk is also an emulsion, it can have this effect too.
Unlikely But Possible: A Tea Allergy
It is unlikely that you have ever heard of a tea allergy. This is because it is quite rare. It is even less likely to experience extreme symptoms like anaphylaxis.
Despite this, it is possible that you have a tea allergy, with one of the symptoms being coughing. In addition, you may also experience labored breathing or wheezing. In severe cases, you can even lose consciousness.
The next time that you do drink tea, watch out for any other symptoms, including rashes or hives appearing on your skin. If there doesn’t appear to be any other issues, then it is probably not a tea allergy. However, a doctor would be able to tell you for certain.
As you can see, it is possible for tea to cause coughing in some individuals. There are a variety of reasons and fortunately, a few different solutions that you can try out as well. If this is something that you have suffered with in the past, then you just may be able to move past it.
Dr. Dheena Sadik
Consultant Nutritionist and Dietician
Dr. Dheena Sadik is a consultant Nutritionist and Dietician. She has over a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry. However, her love for tea began long before she understood the health benefits of tea. Growing up in Sri Lanka, Dheena had the privilege of being surrounded by the world-famous Ceylon tea. This is what got her started on her exploration of the various types of tea. She has now extensively tasted and examined teas from all over the world.