itchy throat

Itchy throat: Causes and remedies

An itchy throat is a condition that can make it difficult for you to talk or swallow due to physical irritation.

There are many causes of an itchy throat, but allergies and infections are common reasons. You also may have an itchy throat after spending time around smoke, after talking for a long time, or simply getting dehydrated.

All potential causes of irritation result in the same thing: a throat that feels itchy, dry, and sore. Many causes of an itchy or sore throat resolve on their own in about a week, so treating your throat pain is a matter of reducing your symptoms.

While itchy throats can be an early symptom of bacterial or viral infection, they’re often a sign of allergies such as hay fever. To be sure what’s causing your itchy throat, visit your doctor and see what they suggest to treat the condition.

There are also many popular home remedies for itchy throat. If you’re interested in trying some, discuss them with your doctor first. They can give you recommendations on which remedies are safe to try, even if research is lacking on their effectiveness.

Causes of itchy throat

The most common causes of itchy throat include:

  • hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
  • food allergies
  • drug allergies
  • infection (bacterial or viral)
  • dehydration
  • acid reflux
  • side effects of medication

Allergic rhinitis

A common cause of itchy throat is allergic rhinitis, which is also known as hay fever.

Also known as hay fever, allergic rhinitis may be one of the most common causes of an itchy throat. As many as 40 to 60 million Americans are affected by it.

Allergic rhinitis happens when the body overreacts to an otherwise harmless substance, releasing a chemical called histamine that causes these overreactions.

Common triggers include pollen, dander, dust, and irritants such as cigarette smoke or exhaust fumes.

Food allergies

Allergic reactions to food happen when the body reacts to certain things we eat as if they were going to harm the body. Reactions generally develop within minutes or a few hours after consuming the trigger food.

The allergy may be mild with symptoms stopping with an itchy throat or mouth. However, they can be life-threatening.

Common trigger foods include peanuts, shellfish, eggs, milk, and wheat.

Drug allergies

Many people suffer from allergies to certain medications including penicillin and other antibiotics. The severity of the allergy will range from mild to life-threatening.

Symptoms of a drug allergy can include an itchy throat that starts shortly after taking a new medication.

Bacterial and viral infections

Strep throat or bacterial cases of tonsillitis may start with an itchy throat before progressing to a more severe sore throat.

Viruses such as the common cold or the flu virus can both cause an itchy throat.

If it is just a cold, the itchy throat is unlikely to progress past being mildly sore. If a person has a flu infection, their throat soreness will be more severe and accompanied by fever, body aches, and chest discomfort.

Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when the body loses more water than it takes in. It is common during hot weather, after exercise, or during illness.

Dehydration can cause a dry mouth, a temporary condition where the mouth and throat don’t have enough saliva. This may cause an itchy feeling in the throat.

Acid reflux

A symptom of itchy throat may be stomach acid that enters the food pipe, also known as heartburn.

Also known as heartburn, some people with chronic acid reflux experience throat problems. Acid reflux happens when stomach acid backs up from the stomach into the food pipe.

An itchy or sore throat is unlikely to be the only symptom of reflux. However, some people have a condition called silent reflux and may only notice a chronic, itchy throat as a symptom.

Medication side effects

Some medications may cause dry coughs and itchy throats that are not due to allergic reactions.

People taking ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure should be aware that ACE inhibitors may cause an itchy throat and dry cough.

Most often, these symptoms begin shortly after starting an ACE inhibitor and are not accompanied by other symptoms commonly experienced with an itchy throat.

Home remedies for itchy throat

Here are seven popular home remedies that advocates of natural medicine suggest may be helpful for itchy throat. However, note that herbal remedies are not subject to regulation by the FDA, so they have not been tested in an FDA-approved clinical trial. Always check with your doctor before starting any alternative treatments.

Gargle with salt water

  1. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water.
  2. Sip and gargle for 10 seconds.
  3. Spit it out; don’t swallow it.
  4. Repeat 2 to 3 times a day.

Eat honey

Eat a tablespoon of honey — preferably raw, local honey — in the morning,

Drink hot ginger tea with lemon and honey

  • Put 1 tablespoon of honey into a cup.
  • Fill with hot water.
  • Squeeze in the juice from 2 lemon wedges.
  • Grate in a small amount of fresh ginger.
  • Stir the beverage.
  • Drink it slowly.
  • Repeat 2 to 3 times a day.

Drink apple cider vinegar

  • Mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into 8 ounces of hot water.
  • Once cool enough to drink, sip it slowly.

To improve the taste, try adding a tablespoon of maple syrup or a tablespoon of honey.

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Drink milk and turmeric

  1. Over medium heat, in a small saucepan, mix 1 teaspoon of turmeric with 8 ounces of milk.
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Pour the mixture into a cup.
  4. Allow the mixture to cool to a comfortable drinking temperature and drink slowly.
  5. Repeat every evening until the throat itch is gone.

Drink horseradish tea

  1. Mix together 1 tablespoon of horseradish (natural horseradish root, not sauce), 1 teaspoon of ground cloves, and 1 teaspoon of honey in a cup.
  2. Fill with hot water and stir to mix thoroughly.
  3. Drink slowly.

Drink herbal tea

A variety of herbal teas are believed to soothe an itchy throat, including:

  • stinging nettles
  • ginkgo
  • licorice
  • dong quai
  • red clover
  • chamomile
  • eyebright
  • slippery elm
  • milk thistle

Drink herbal tea

A variety of herbal teas are believed to soothe an itchy throat, including:

  • stinging nettles
  • ginkgo
  • licorice
  • dong quai
  • red clover
  • chamomile
  • eyebright
  • slippery elm
  • milk thistle

Preventing itchy throat

If you often get an itchy throat, there are lifestyle changes you can make to lower the number of incidents and length of this discomfort. This includes:

  • quitting smoking
  • staying hydrated
  • limiting or avoiding caffeine
  • limiting or avoiding alcohol
  • limiting or avoiding opening windows or going outside during allergy season
  • washing hands often during cold and flu season

Bottom Line

If you’re experiencing an itchy throat, there are a number of popular home remedies that are recommended by supporters of natural healing. Remember to always check with your doctor before starting any alternative medications. If self-care does not prove effective for you, visit your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

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