An itchy scratchy throat can be quite irritating and is a sign of underlying conditions such as allergies or infections. Irritation in the throat often makes it difficult for you to swallow or even speak. While extremely common during allergies and infections, itchy throats also happen due to other lesser-known causes such as dehydration and acidity.
There are many treatment options and preventive measures to tackle the tickle in your throat. The first step, though, is to understand itchy throat meaning and the various conditions that can cause it. Once you are able to identify the exact cause, you can resort to home remedies and medications accordingly.
What is an itchy throat?
An itchy throat may be physically irritating and make it difficult to talk or swallow. Numerous factors might contribute to a scratchy throat, but infections and allergies are common culprits. Another reason your throat could feel scratchy is if you’ve been in smoke, spoken for too long, or are simply dehydrated. Irritants cause the common symptoms of an itchy, dry, and sore throat.
Itchy throat: What are the common causes and signs, and how to treat them?
Itchy throat due to allergies
Allergies are one of the most common culprits that cause you to experience an itchy throat. The multiple allergens that can trigger this condition include:
- Allergic rhinitis or hay fever
- Seasonal allergies
- Animal dander and fur
- Allergy causing foods such as nuts, dairy etc. (for those who are susceptible)
- Drug allergies
Itchy throat due to Pollutants
We live in a world where we are constantly exposed to pollution through various chemicals and precipitants in the air. The common pollutants that can cause an allergy include:
- Exhaust fumes from vehicles and industries
- Cleaning products strong on chemicals
- Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco smoke.
In most cases, when you are experiencing an allergy phase, your body releases chemicals known as histamines. These histamines are responsible for triggering a host of reactions, the most common among them being sneezing and an itchy throat.
Antihistamine drugs are used as the first line of medication to fight allergies and help you get some relief from the symptoms you are experiencing.
Itchy throat due to infections and viral fever
You can experience an itchy throat when you have conditions such as:
- Bacterial throat infection
- Viral flu
- Common cold
- Strep throat
Most of the above infections and fevers start with a scratchy throat as an initial symptom. The infection then slowly progresses, and you will start experiencing additional symptoms depending on the type of infection.
If it is just a common cold, you may experience symptoms such as sneezing, blocked nose, headaches, and itchy throat, all of them being mild. These symptoms usually resolve on their own with some basic medications and home remedies which we will discuss later in this article.
Once the infection reduces, you will find your itchy throat disappearing and you will be back to normal.
Itchy throat due to Dehydration
A surprisingly lesser-known cause of a sore throat is dehydration.
Dehydration is a condition where your body doesn’t have enough supply of water and electrolytes. This happens when you live in hot climates, during physical exertions, workouts, endurance and training sessions, and even when you are sick.
Lack of enough hydration causes you to experience a dry mouth and a dry throat due to lack of saliva since your body is low on fluids. This dryness, in turn, causes you to experience a ticklish throat.
Dehydration can also cause a host of other symptoms such as:
- Headaches or migraine
- Excessive thirst
- Lowered urination
- Irregular heartbeat
- Dry mouth
If your scratchy throat is accompanied by these symptoms, then your itchy throat is most likely a consequence of dehydration.
Addressing dehydration is quite easy simply because hydration is the first step. Drink plenty of water, electrolyte drinks or even fruit juices. If you are experiencing constant throat issues due to regular dehydration, you can stock up on water-rich foods which will help you stay hydrated properly. Natural electrolyte drinks such as coconut water can be a ton of help when you are dehydrated.
Sportspersons, athletes, and bodybuilders can stay hydrated and avoid a scratchy throat by depending on electrolyte drinks and sports drinks.
Itchy throat due to acid reflux
Another lesser-known cause of a scratchy throat is acidity, otherwise known as heartburn. Itchy throat due to acidity is quite common among those who experience chronic acid reflux condition or GERD. In these conditions, the acid in your stomach can travel back into your esophagus which results in an itchy throat.
If you are experiencing itchy throat accompanied by symptoms such as heart burn, lack of appetite, and an inability to digest food properly, you are likely experiencing acid reflux. Antacid medications along with home remedies will help resolve this issue.
Home remedies for the itchy throat
Itchy throat can be quite uncomfortable for those experiencing the condition. A few home remedies can help bring quick relief while you address the actual issue. Here are a few home remedies to tackle an itchy throat.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking lots of water will help your throat get the necessary hydration and calm down the itchiness.
- Some people can get relief from sipping warm water slowly, especially when the itchiness is due to infections.
- Sucking on ice cubes can help calm down the raging irritation and bring in some relief. Alternatively, popsicles can help, especially when you have GERD.
- Itchy throat accompanied by acidity can be relieved by drinking cold milk.
- Add turmeric to warm milk, mix well, let it cool, and drink it. This is also an effective remedy for a scratchy throat.
- When itching is accompanied by a sore throat, you can sip some hot tea with some honey, lemon, and ginger added to it. You can opt for any tea like green tea or herbal tea.
- Drinks such as ginger ale can help reduce throat inflammation and reduce irritation.
- You can also have honey on its own to relieve an itchy and sore throat.
- Install a humidifier if you are prone to allergies and during allergy seasons.
- Chewing lozenges can sometimes help relieve the itchiness.
- Doctors recommend gargling warm water with some salt added to it to reduce throat irritation.
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Itchy throat: when to see a doctor?
If the itchy throat doesn’t seem to resolve and you are experiencing other symptoms such as fever, body aches, cough, nasal congestion, etc., you most likely have some sort of infection. You must consult a registered medical practitioner who will identify the root cause and treat you accordingly.
You must also consult a doctor when you experience aggravated symptoms of allergies or acidity and you don’t feel good about yourself.
Itchy throat: How to prevent it?
- Hydration is an important step to prevent itchy throat, especially when you are prone to dehydration and itchiness.
- Smokers should minimize or quit smoking altogether.
- Avoid alcohol since excess alcohol can dehydrate you, resulting in an itchy thrat.
- Minimize exposure outside during allergy seasons. Install a humidifier or an air purifier at home and work place.
- Keep your hands and surrounding sanitized during flu seasons.
- Take your allergy and other medications as prescribed by your physician to treat the underlying cause of the itchiness.
- Follow a healthy lifestyle and get your dose of Vitamin C to reduce the occurrence of allergies and colds.
- Have a balanced diet to avoid conditions such as acidity.
How can I prevent an Itchy throat?
Avoiding a sore throat isn’t always possible.
However, if you know that, for example, you often have seasonal allergies or that it is now cold and flu season, you may try the following home remedy for itchy throat to prevent experiencing a scratchy throat in the future:
- Drink a lot of water to keep yourself hydrated.
- Only drink alcohol or a little coffee if you have a stuffy nose.
- Limit your time spent among smokers to lessen the likelihood of irritation.
- To prevent the spread of disease, it is important to wash your hands routinely.
An itchy throat is a common yet troublesome condition most of us face at some point in our life. There are many causes for an itchy throat and the treatment options depend on the root cause of the itchiness.
Having said that, some common remedies can help reduce the intensity of the itchiness and provide relief. Avoiding the root cause of the problem may help totally avoid itchy throat and a consultation with a medical expert can help you identify the cause.
Itchy throat Related FAQs
Can an itchy throat be a symptom of a more serious condition?
If you also have discomfort while swallowing, fever, swollen lymph nodes, or a hoarse voice, in addition to your itchy throat, you should see a doctor occasionally. Since several medical conditions, including croup, laryngitis, and asthma, may cause an itchy throat, it is important to be aware of any other symptoms that may arise simultaneously.
When should I see a doctor for an itchy throat?
If your scratchy throat lasts more than a few days or you also have other symptoms like coughing, discomfort in the throat, difficulty swallowing, or hoarseness, you should see a doctor. These symptoms may point to an infection or other serious health problems. Seek medical attention if the itching in your throat persists for more than a few days or is severe.
Is an itchy throat contagious?
The answers are both yes and no. Itchy throat symptoms are not contagious. However, the underlying causes of a scratchy throat may spread rapidly. Allergies, the common cold, and the flu are just a few examples of contagious ailments that often manifest in itchy throats. An itchy throat brought on by one of these diseases might thus be contagious.
Can allergies cause an itchy throat?
Allergic reactions may cause several symptoms, including an itchy throat. This might be due to airborne irritants, including pollen, mould, dust mites, pet dander, and other allergens. There may be a wide range in intensity, from a little tickle to a severe burning sensation in the throat when an allergy is to blame.
How can I differentiate between a cold, flu, and itchy throat?
Many people have a gradual onset of less severe symptoms over a few days when they get a cold. Treatment with over-the-counter medications is usually successful, and the illness lasts for about a week at most. However, flu symptoms tend to appear more quickly and be more severe. More intensive medical treatment is often required when dealing with a flu infection that lasts for two weeks or more. An itchy throat is usually due to allergies, although viruses like the common cold or influenza may also be to blame.
How long does an itchy throat last?
An itchy throat might last for a time, depending on the cause. The symptoms should go away if it turns out that allergies were to fault. An itchy throat due to a virus might last a few days to weeks. If the itching in your throat is accompanied by additional symptoms like a fever or body aches, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible.
What is the difference between a sore throat and an itchy throat?
An infection, either viral or bacterial, is usually to blame for a sore throat, which may also cause pain, swelling, and difficulty swallowing. Other symptoms, such as fever and headaches, are possible as well. The symptoms of an itchy throat might include a ticklish or uncomfortable sensation in the throat and are often brought on by allergies or irritants. It may also cause coughing, hoarseness, or the feeling that something is stuck in the throat.