Suffering from a dry throat is common, especially in dry or cold months. But what are the causes of dry throat, and how can it be treated? When should you talk to a medical professional?
Why Is My Throat Dry?
The root cause of a dry throat is reduced moisture in your throat, usually due to increased airflow. It can also be caused by other sources of irritation, like high particulate matter in the air. Many things can cause this, most commonly allergies, dehydration, and mouth breathing. The right treatment changes depending on the cause.
What Are the Symptoms?
A dry throat feels like a rough, scratchy, or itchy feeling in your throat, especially on the inside. This sensation can feel uncomfortable. It may be accompanied by difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, and slight pain.
What Causes Throat Dryness?
Your dry throat is caused by the drying of your throat’s membranes or other sources of irritation. Common causes of a dry throat include:
- Allergies and hay fever
- Mouth breathing
- Dry air
- Pollution, Smog, and airborne irritants
- Acid reflux and GERD
- Sleep apnea
- Common cold
- The flu
- Strep throat
- COVID-19 coronavirus
Allergies and hay fever can cause dry or sore throat. Pet allergies, pollen allergies, and dust allergies can all cause dry throat. Also known as allergic rhinitis, hay fever can trigger allergic reactions like sinus congestion, runny nose, cough, sneezing, and itchy nose which increase airflow to the throat – triggering a dry throat.
Common triggers include:
- Grass pollen
- Tree pollen
- Weed pollen
- Dust mites
- Pet dander
If these triggers cause allergic rhinitis, this means your immune system is releasing histamine when exposed to these allergens. Histamine causes allergy symptoms.
Medical treatments for allergic rhinitis (hay fever) include:
- Antihistamines, prescribed or over the counter
- Nasal decongestants
- Corticosteroid nasal sprays, eye drops, and tablets
- Subcutaneous allergy immunotherapy allergy shots
- Sublingual immunotherapy allergy tablets
- Sublingual immunotherapy allergy drops
Immunotherapy slowly increases your exposure to allergens in a controlled dosage and setting. Your immune system will desensitize, which will reduce your allergy symptoms. Wyndly doctors prescribe at-home allergy immunotherapy, which is convenient and affordable.
There are also many home remedies for allergies if you want a natural and holistic approach.
Dehydration is one of the leading causes of a dry throat. It is very common, with studies showing that around three-fourths of Americans have chronic dehydration.
When the body doesn't have enough water, a lot of things stop working effectively - including saliva production. Glands in the mouth and throat (salivary glands) are responsible for creating saliva and providing moisture.
If there isn't enough water to power your salivary glands, you end up with a dry throat.
Other symptoms include:
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Dark urine or strong-smelling urine
- Infrequent urination (less than you normally urinate)
- Constant feeling of thirst
The treatment for a dry throat from dehydration is simple: drink more water! Drinking plenty of water is the only way to avoid feeling dehydrated, and it is also generally good practice.
If you need to recover quickly from dehydration, try mixing an electrolyte pack into your water. They restock the salts and sugars your body needs and can help speed up recovery.
Lastly, caffeinated sodas, alcohol, and caffeine can make dehydration worse, so they should be avoided until your dry throat is back to normal.
Failure to treat dehydration can lead to far more serious complications. In extreme cases, it can even lead to organ failure, so stay hydrated.
Mouth breathing often causes dry mouth and throat disorders. Mouth breathing does not humidify the air you breathe in, drying out your throat, and leaving you with a dry cough, hoarse voice, and other symptoms including:
- Bad breath
- Sore throat
- Dry mouth
Common causes of mouth breathing, especially when asleep, are congested nasal airways, sinus congestion, and sleep apnea.
For most dry throats from mouth breathing, simply drinking water and sucking on a lozenge will alleviate symptoms. For more severe cases, treating the underlying cause is necessary. Try taking a nasal decongestant or expectorant, using a nasal strip to increase nasal airflow, or sleeping on your side.
If you think you have sleep apnea, you’ll want to talk to a medical professional.
Dry air and low humidity cause dry throat. When there isn’t enough humidity in the air, your throat will lose moisture to the environment.
The easiest way to treat a dry throat from dry air is to drink more water. You can also consider buying a humidifier to increase environmental humidity. Steam inhalation may also help.
Pollution, smog, and particulate matter like pollen and smoke can cause dry throat by irritating your throat’s interior. Particulate matter includes soot, smoke, dust, nitrates, and sulfates.
The short-term fix for a dry throat from pollution is to drink some water. The long-term fix is to clean up the air that you are breathing by buying an air filter.
Acid Reflux and GERD
Dry throat is caused by Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (acid reflux) when stomach acid backwashes into the throat, irritating it and making it feel dry.
Taking antacids or changing your diet can help settle the stomach and reduce symptoms like dry throat from acid reflux and GERD.
Sleep apnea, specifically untreated obstructive sleep apnea, can cause a dry, irritated, or sore throat. The difficulty breathing sleep apnea creates causes your body to try mouth breathing, which increases dry air hitting your throat. This causes scratchy and dry throat.
The solution to sleep apnea is to see a sleep specialist and take a sleep study. They often prescribe a CPAP or BiPAP machine.
Laryngitis can cause dry throat and dry cough. Laryngitis is the inflammation of your voice box (larynx) from overuse, irritation, or infection of the vocal cords.
Laryngitis will usually resolve itself without intervention. Resting your voice and drinking fluids is often enough to cure laryngitis. If your laryngitis symptoms last more than two weeks, see a doctor.
Your medications may cause a dry mouth or dry throat as a side effect. Check the label on the medication packaging or talk to your doctor.
If your medications are giving you a dry throat, try hydrating. You can also ask your doctor for other medicine options.
Smoking often causes sore throat and dry throat. Smokers frequently have more throat trouble than non-smokers because of the chemicals in smoke, especially the smoke from tobacco cigarettes and marijuana. Inhaling smoke irritates the sensitive tissues in the throat by exposing it to hot, dry air and toxic chemicals.
The best solution to a dry throat from smoking is to reduce or stop smoking. Regularly drinking water may help reduce dryness.
The common cold, or rhinovirus, causes dry throat. Sore throat is also a common symptom of this virus.
A cold can make your throat feel dry, scratchy, itchy, or sore. The viral infection can also cause:
- Runny, stuffy nose
- Mild fever
- Body aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Ear pain
The flu is similar to the cold and causes the same kind of symptoms, but it can cause more dangerous respiratory issues in people with a weakened immune system. Those most at risk include young children, the elderly, people with chronic medical conditions, and pregnant women.
Cold and flu symptoms go beyond a sore throat, although it is often one of the first signs. They also include:
- Stuffy nose
- Body aches
- Ear pain
A dry throat from a cold can be treated by drinking warm liquids, gargling salt water, and taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications. A throat lozenge may also help.
The flu can cause dry throat. It also causes sore throat and scratchy throat. The flu, or influenza, is a respiratory illness caused by a virus. The flu is more serious than the common cold.
A dry throat from the flu can be treated similarly to a dry throat from a cold: by drinking warm liquids, gargling salt water, sucking on a throat lozenge, and taking OTC medications.
Mono, or mononucleosis, often causes a dry throat, scratchy throat, or sore throat. Mono, also known as the “kissing disease”, is a viral infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.
As well as a dry, scratchy, or sore throat, the symptoms of mono include:
- Muscle weakness
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck and armpits
- Swollen tonsils
- Night sweats
Mono typically lasts 2 to 4 weeks. For some, it may take longer to recover.
Tonsillitis can cause dry throat. This inflammation of the tonsils is caused by an infection, usually viral or bacterial.
Along with a dry throat, which can be scratchy and sore, too, you may experience the following tonsillitis symptoms:
- trouble swallowing
- swollen tonsils
- swollen lymph nodes
- headaches and body aches
To soothe your dry throat, try gargling warm water with salt and drinking hot tea with honey, or other warm liquids. Then, go see your doctor who can prescribe antibiotics if necessary.
Strep throat can cause dry throat, and it often causes a very sore throat. Strep is a throat infection by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes. Common symptoms of strep throat include:
- Sore throat
- Swollen, red, or white patchy tonsils
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Body aches
Talk to your doctor if you think you have strep throat. To manage the dry throat, hydrate regularly, use a sore throat spray, and take a throat lozenge. Drinking hot liquids may also help.
Dry throat is one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19 Coronavirus.
Manage your dry throat from COVID-19 Coronavirus like you would a sore throat from the flu or a cold. Rest, drink liquids, and see a doctor if symptoms worsen.
How To Get Rid of a Dry Throat?
The best treatment depends on the cause of your dry throat. General remedies include taking painkillers, drinking more water, and drinking hot drinks, but these are not enough in every situation. When you know the root of the problem, you can treat the dry throat more effectively.
How Long Does Dry Throat Last?
A dry throat should last between a few days to a few weeks, depending on the cause. If you think you are experiencing complications from a dry throat, or if it lasts longer than two weeks, see a doctor as soon as possible.
When Do You Need To See a Doctor?
Often, you can relieve your dry throat symptoms with home treatment. But if your symptoms last longer than a week or continue to worsen, see your doctor for a diagnosis and care plan.
If you experience any severe symptoms, seek medical attention. Severe dry throat symptoms include:
- Sore throat with very painful swallowing
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
- Fever higher than 101°F (38°C)
- Excessive tiredness during the day
- Loud snoring at night
Take Our Allergy Assessment
If you think your dry throat might be caused by allergies, Wyndly can help. Our allergy doctors will work with you to identify your exact allergy triggers and create a personalized treatment plan to get you relief. Take our quick online assessment now to see if Wyndly is right for you!