Ice Cream and Sinus Infections: The Link to Artificial Flavorings

| Modified on Apr 18, 2023
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Back in the early days of Earth Clinic, a theory emerged about the potential link between ice cream consumption and the onset of flu-like symptoms and sinus infections. The theory suggested that consuming ice cream from brands that contained artificial flavors, such as Dairy Queen, Baskin Robbins, and Wendy's, could lead to fever, headache, congestion, and general malaise within 24 hours. The supposed virus would disappear within a day, only to be replaced by a severe sinus infection with intense sinus pressure and heavily blocked and infected sinus passages. Unlike a genuine virus or allergy, there would be no runny nose.

To investigate this theory, people who had contracted sinus infections were asked whether they had consumed ice cream within two days before the onset of the infection. An overwhelming majority reported that they had indeed eaten ice cream before getting sick, providing initial evidence to support the theory. This prompted further investigations, and in subsequent studies, the link between ice cream consumption and the onset of flu-like symptoms and sinus infections was confirmed.

Today, we know that this theory, which emerged over 20 years ago, has been proven. If you or your children indulge in ice cream from brands that contain artificial flavors, be aware of the potential risks and the symptoms that may occur within 24 hours of consumption.

The Culprit is Likely in the Flavorings

According to Earth Clinic's theory, it's not the listed ingredients in ice cream causing the bogus flu and sinus infections. It's the so-called "natural" and artificial flavorings. As children growing up in the 1970s and 80s, we ate lots of ice cream and never experienced a sinus infection. However, the infections started to occur in the late 1990s, always after eating ice cream from stores like Baskin Robbins or Dairy Queen, and never during a cold or flu.

We strongly believe that if someone conducted a study on this subject, they would find a nationwide spike in sinus infections starting around the time companies began adding chemically complicated artificial flavors to ice cream.

A 2006 excerpt from Eric Schlosser's book, Fast Food Nation, sheds light on the typical ingredients found in a Burger King strawberry milkshake. The list includes a plethora of compounds and artificial flavors. While there's nothing illegal about these ingredients, they're all within the law, and food labels can include them under the umbrella term "flavorings." To make artificial flavorings believable, the correct "mouth feel" must be achieved, which is achieved by adding starches, emulsifiers, stabilizers, sugars, and fats.

6/29/2006: Penny from Fresno, CA was kind enough to send us the following excerpt. You can find even more information on this subject at:

"In his book Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser looks at the typical ingredients in a Burger King strawberry milkshake: amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl acetate, ethyl amyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenyl-glycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone, a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, run ether, y-undercalctone, vanillin and solvent.

It would appear that underneath the natural and artificial flavours, an abundance of compounds lay. There is nothing illegal going on here. This is all within the law. Likewise with food labels, they too can include all these ingredients and place them under the umbrella term of 'flavourings'. It's really rather frightening. The value of flavourings is of tremendous importance to the fast food industry, which require their foods be standardized, and flavourings can offer a standardized product. In order that artificial flavourings are made believable, the correct 'mouth feel' must be gained. This is achieved by the addition of starches, emulsfiers, stabilizers, sugars and fats (Marsili, 1993, Food Product Design). So next time you pop into your favourite fast food outlet for a milkshake, take a moment and think about what's really in this stuff."

Given this information, it's understandable to be concerned about what's really in our food, including ice cream and other fast foods. So, next time you're thinking of indulging in a milkshake or a cone, take a moment to consider the potential risks and make an informed decision.


Since our original article was published in 2002, several others have discussed the potential connection between ice cream consumption, sinus infections, and artificial flavorings. For example, a New York Times article from May 6th, 2007, written by Jesse McKinley, titled "Flavoring-Factory Illnesses Raise Inquiries," discussed a rare, life-threatening lung condition called "bronchiolitis obliterans" that has affected several flavoring factory workers in California. This condition is usually found only in people who are exposed to chemical fires or chemical warfare or in lung transplant patients.

While no one else on the web appears to be discussing the connection between artificial flavorings and the bogus flu/virus condition, we believe it's essential to look into these side effects more seriously. Our theory is supported by various sources, including the Livestrong article "Sweets That Cause Sinus Problems," the article "Ice Cream and Sinus Infections," and the Yahoo Voices article "Sinus Infections Causes You Didn't Know About."

If you suffer from sinus infections, consider exploring natural remedies for relief, such as those found on our page dedicated to sinus headache relief from folk cures. However, if you suspect that your ice cream consumption is causing your symptoms, it's crucial to avoid ice cream brands that contain artificial flavorings.

Continue reading below for feedback from hundreds of our readers who got sinus infections after eating artificially flavored ice cream.

Related Links:

Find Relief from Sinus Infections Naturally
Natural Sinus Congestion Remedies

Ice Cream and Sinus Infections Reader Feedback

176 User Reviews
5 star (2) 

Posted by beverly (Texas) on 01/04/2022

I have eaten certain brands of ice cream that brought on serious sinus infections. I use to eat Blizzards at DQ and had to stop it when I realized it was giving me sinus issues.

Ice Cream and Sinus Infections Reader Feedback
Posted by Linhen (Marietta, GA) on 01/04/2021

I can confirm Earth Clinic's findings. I had Haagen Daz ice cream on Tuesday and came down with flu like symptoms and sinus infection on Thursday. This happened in the past after having a Wendy's shake as well.

Ice Cream and Sinus Infections Reader Feedback
Posted by Prov31J (Somewhere Over The Rainbow (KS)) on 11/06/2019

I was ALWAYS having sinus infections after ice creams especially in the 80's and 90's... at some point, I read of sage helping with sinus infections... Worked great and I've not had as much of the sinus infections (of course,

I rarely eat ice cream and the chemically enhanced soft serve type "frozen desserts" either...). Even the kitchen spice bottle like you use for cooking Thanksgiving dinner - just plopped a teaspoon in hot tea water and let it steep 3-5 minutes or longer. At first I wanted it with stevia or honey to deal with the sage astringency/flavor - but now I can just shoot it straight. Be prepared to spend some time in the restroom bringing all the phlegm up - doesn't sound pretty, but the pain goes bye-bye with every glob that I spit up and out into the trash (I shouldn't have to tell you all to not "recycle" it by swallowing whatever you cough. It only buys you a little time until it comes back up so you still need to clear it out of your sinus passages!!).

Ice Cream and Sinus Infections Reader Feedback
Posted by Soph (LA) on 07/19/2019

We bought some ice cream. It was dairy substitute ice cream. Two days later, major sinus infection pain, major pain it hurt to open my eyes, could not sleep for two days. I decided to mixed coconut oil with few drop eucalyptus oil and two drops of peppermint oil and one drop of tea tree oil and few drops of DMSO. I mixed it all together and rubbed in over my sinus every hour wore soft hat on head and went to bed. I felt much better. Would of never guessed that ice cream is so toxic.

Ice Cream and Sinus Infections Reader Feedback
Posted by Soph (LA) on 07/19/2019

We bought some ice cream. It was dairy substitute ice cream. Two days later, major sinus infection pain, major pain it hurt to open my eyes, could not sleep for two days. I decided to mixed coconut oil with few drop eucalyptus oil and two drops of peppermint oil and one drop of tea tree oil and few drops of DMSO. I mixed it all together and rubbed in over my sinus every hour wore soft hat on head and went to bed. I felt much better. Would of never guessed that ice cream is so toxic.

Ice Cream and Sinus Infections Reader Feedback
Posted by Kimberly (Pennsylvania) on 01/30/2017

I have just Googled about this issue. I am affected from dunkin donuts creamer they use. I don't need to drink much in the coffee and I instantly have this reaction everytime. I always drank it black now with creamer and get instant sinus reactions than goes away the next day. I am interested in learning more and helping anyway I can. This is the only information I found online that can link to my issue.

Ice Cream and Sinus Infections Reader Feedback
Posted by Lightbulb (Oregon) on 08/14/2016

We eat non GMO organic and perhaps ice cream maybe two times in ten years. One day at the supermarket they had big ice cream sale . Häagen-Dazs and Talenti, we bought both ate some . That night I noticed by eyes hurt so bad, hurt to move them. and I had insomnia my frontal sinuses were inflamed feeling . I did not link it to ice cream. My husband was sleeping he was not feeling so good. That night we ate more ice cream next day I felt like I had a mega sinus infection, I felt so weird I was forgetting things and I had migraine, we were going to go to the emergency dept, decided to wait to see my MD on Monday. I'm stunned that ice cream from my childhood days has turned into a dangerous poison with all sort of chemicals! No ice cream for us ever, unless I make it at home. end of story.

Ice Cream and Sinus Infections Reader Feedback
Posted by Hippocrates (Missouri) on 07/12/2016 9 posts

You want the connection, here it is: Balsam of Peru and Balsam of Tolu.

These two "ingredients" are basically tree saps from some South American trees and they are basically the same thing. They are commonly used to "naturally flavor" many foods and also widely used in perfumes. This probably explains it if you are allergic to perfumes and scents, and/or if ice cream bothers your sinuses. It contains compounds that are chemically the same or similar to cinnamon, clove, vanilla, citrus, etc and can be extracted and used much more cheaply than the real thing.

Looking over the chemical names listed above for the Burger King Strawberry Milkshake, I recognize many of those chemical compounds as easily derivable from Balsam of Peru and Balsam of Tolu. (

They can put it in ANY food or beverage and label it simply as "natural flavor", so it can be in anything you eat that says "natural flavor" or even potentially "artificial flavor". It is also the number two contact dermatitis allergen at 15% of skin all tests showing "positive" results, just behind nickel. If 15% of people's skin is allergic to it, logic would dictate that the rest of their body probably would not like it either if ingested or inhaled, especially the delicate mucous membranes of sinuses and digestive tracts.

Research it yourself and see if avoiding "natural flavors" is worth it.

Also, petition your local government and tell them to make manufacturers label EVERYTHING that is in their foods and personal care products! If it is going in or on us, we have a right to know what is in it!

Ice Cream and Sinus Infections Reader Feedback
Posted by Audrey (Wawrung) on 11/07/2015

I have had my suspicions for some time now about my reaction to chocolate chip mint ice cream. I seem to always get sick with bronchitis that lasts months. I have been a skeptic of this connection since I grew up eating ice cream ( this flavor always a favorite) with no problems. I did it again last Friday night and it started Saturday and I have been stick with bronchial asthma for a week. I also get sick eating cold cereals with bht that didn't bother me as a kid. This site puts it together for me. I'm done with ice cream. Is it the corn in cereals (the rare treat of Lucky Charms)? Or the BHT?

Ice Cream and Sinus Infections Reader Feedback
Posted by Jules (Kyabram Victoria Australia) on 11/03/2014

Thank you so much, I am in the throws of a megga sinus attack with no other reason for it than a new brand of icecream which states its the Smooth icecream with the worlds finest vanilla flavour! Sourced from Madagascan vanilla..........Now I am informed and will go back to making my own with homegrown strawberries and NO artificial flavours.. Its such a relief to learn its not the icecream as such but once again its the Ad-ins.....

Cider vinegar massage and steaming are finally providing me relief thanks to sites like yours who care enough to help.

Ice Cream and Sinus Infections Reader Feedback
Posted by Em (Fl, US) on 10/28/2014

I am so happy to have been directed to your site. So much information. The ice cream/sinusitis connection is especially interesting, since I have several friends/family members that suffer terribly with sinus trouble.

I don't have any cures but I wanted to share some information that a nurse (7th Day Adventist) told me, during a discussion about nutrition. One of her statements was so simple as to render it mind-boggling. She said:

Everyone forgets that God made MILK for baby cows!

And we wonder why, even in raw form, we can't tolerate it??

Be calm and be healthy...

Ice Cream and Sinus Infections Reader Feedback
Posted by Belle (Pembroke Pines, Fl) on 03/06/2014

I knew it!!! I should have looked this up years ago! Thank you. I get horribly sick every single time after eating my favorite ice cream, Hagendaz vanilla Swiss almond. I am sick today, sinus and all. Had homemade papaya shake with carnation evaporated milk last night. So was it the milk? Was it the brown sugar? Was it that it was too cold? Or all of the above? I would really appreciate your feedback. thanks again to everyone.

Replied by Prioris
(Fl, Usa)

Have you checked into fungal infection as reason for sinusitis. One quick remedy could be mixing 1% johnson's baby shampoo (probably anything that has surfactant would do) with 99% water. put in nose with eye dropper. it clears away biofilm. I used it for sinusitis headache and it worked to some extent.

Some have used gut bacteria and put into nose. I'd consider also treating with antifungal.

Here is a treatment protocol someone wrote up. it's very informative.

Replied by Prioris
(Fl, Usa)

let me clarify what I just said about 1% shampoo solution

to make nasal solution I used ... 1 cup water, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp johnson baby shampoo ... but this is 2% solution so one can use less than a tsp of shampoo ... the baking soda and salt is needed ... you can use eye dropper or nasal spray bottle to put into nose

Ice Cream and Sinus Infections Reader Feedback
Posted by Amy (Los Angeles California) on 01/10/2014

If you have problems with Sinusitis it is very important to avoid cold foods like ice cream, freezes, and ice chip drinks of any kind. Snow cones is also a no no for sinusitis suffers. AND KEEP YOUR HEAD WARM WITH A HAT OR KNIT CAP. DON'T ALLOW YOUR HEAD TO BECOME COLD ESPECIALLY AT NIGHT. In fact it is probably best to keep your entire body warm.

I am mostly well from my Sinusitis but I bought a Vanilla Bean Cappuccino at Starbucks and this cold drink with ice chip (that is so delicious) started a Sinusitis attack on me. I now have to avoid them. Benadryl will usually help an attack! Warmth is a must!

Ice Cream and Sinus Infections Reader Feedback
Posted by Nikki P (Ontario Canada) on 01/09/2014

3 days ago I celebrated a birthday with a friend here in my home all my life I delt with sinusitis since I was 16. I picked up a DQ icecream cake for her to share with her family. I had decent sized piece. Next day had pressure on my ears and face seen that my face was swollen. I just assumed it was allgeries by the next day I was in so much pain my ears were closed up like being on an air plane running 102 fever and really bad virtago. Have a netti but the water not going through did natural healing search found this Page and went holey #*+". I have reflected back on past events and realized I had ice cream every time I got sick. This is just mind blowing.

Nikki P, Ontario Canada

Ice Cream and Sinus Infections Reader Feedback
Posted by Aditya (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) on 06/26/2013

I haven't had a history of sickness, and I believe I have a fairly good immune system. A few weeks ago, ice-cream was on sale, so I bought two packs. After finishing the first (chocolate), I opened up the last pack last Saturday, this was some three flavour (I never really care what I buy, like I said I've never really had any major problems). The next morning I had what seemed like a cold. I ignored it, had some cold medications and went off to work, from there it was downhill. I thought it might just be the weather, I bought neo-citran to end the pain in my ears (sore throat). It helped me sleep, but my lungs were full of mucus the next morning. Its been a few days now (10 days). I haven't fully recovered, it is getting better. But atleast now I know, whats wrong, its a great relief, having read this post. I just wanted to post my experience here so that people realize this is not a fluke, it does and is happening.