There are a number of remedies for scratchy, ticklish, and uncomfortable throats, including gargling salt water and eating honey. Learn how to get rid of an itchy throat.
What causes an itchy throat? | Itchy throat remedies | Prevention | When to see a doctor
A scratchy, ticklish, and overall uncomfortable feeling in the throat may be referred to as an itchy throat that can be bothersome for people. An itchy throat may cause difficulty sleeping, uncomfortable swallowing while eating or drinking, or regular throat clearing. There are many reasons why a throat can become itchy. People will often seek ways to find relief and get rid of an itchy throat. Individuals may start with accessible home remedies and purchase medications later if needed.
What causes an itchy throat?
A variety of reasons can cause an itchy throat. Understanding the cause of an itchy throat is important to treat and prevent it properly. An itchy throat can be temporary or last a long time, depending on the cause. Some causes of an itchy throat include allergies, acid reflux, dehydration, bacterial infections, viral infections, and smoking.
Allergies are one of the most common causes of an itchy throat. Some allergy triggers include pollen (common in seasonal allergies), animal dander, dust, and mold. Along with an itchy throat, people may experience allergies like sneezing, a runny nose, nasal congestion, shortness of breath, watery eyes, itchy eyes, headache, and coughing. Additionally, air pollutants that negatively impact the air quality or tobacco smoke may worsen allergy symptoms and increase throat irritation. It’s important for people to learn what allergens trigger their symptoms to try and avoid them.
Acid reflux occurs when irritating acidic juices (stomach acid) come up from the stomach into the throat. Acid reflux is common and can cause heartburn. This irritation may lead to an uncomfortable sensation in the throat. People may also experience other common heartburn symptoms of sore throat, frequent throat clearing, a sensation of a lump in the throat, hoarseness, and excessive phlegm in the throat.
Dehydration is a common cause of a dry throat that may cause an itchy, rough, or scratchy sensation. If an itchy or scratchy throat is accompanied with a dry mouth, increased thirst, darker urine, less urine than usual, or dizziness, this may be a sign that a person has not had enough water to drink. Dehydration is more likely to happen when a person is ill and experiences vomiting or diarrhea, or on hot days with increased periods of sweating.
Bacterial infections or viral infections may start out with an itchy throat before becoming more painful and sore. People may also experience fatigue, fever, body aches, cough, sneezing, or a runny nose. Examples of common viral infections include influenza, mononucleosis, and COVID-19. An example of a common bacterial infection is strep throat (streptococcal infection).
5 itchy throat remedies
An itchy throat can be caused by a variety of reasons and understanding the cause can help guide the best treatment remedies. Some itchy throat remedies can help soothe irritation and increase comfort. An itchy throat may go away by itself after a few days or linger and require additional care. People may want to start with items they have around the house before purchasing medication or visiting the doctor’s office for an itchy throat. Here are some home remedies for an itchy throat:
Gargle Salt Water
Use a Humidifier
1. Drink Water
It is important to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water for a variety of reasons that help keep the body healthy. Staying hydrated can help moisten the throat, clear the throat passage, and lessen congestion which is especially helpful for an itchy throat associated with allergies or infection. The amount of water people should drink each day varies from person to person and depends on individual factors. In general, a daily water intake of 3.7 liters (about 125 ounces) for adult men and 2.7 liters (about 90 ounces) for adult women meets the needs of the vast majority of people.
2. Gargle Salt Water
Mixing salt and water together creates a mixture that can help relieve an itchy throat. This mixture may help soothe the throat, reduce inflammation, and clear the throat of mucus associated with conditions such as allergies or infection. As a commonly used home remedy, the salt helps draw out fluids from the throat to help moisten and clear it. A saltwater gargle mixture typically includes 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of salt and 1 cup of water. Some useful tips are to mix well and warm the water which helps dissolve the salt a little faster and may be more comfortable on the throat. First, stir the salt into the water until dissolved. Next, take a sip of water, without swallowing, and tilt the head back and gargle the mixture for 10 to 15 seconds. Lastly, spit out the mixture into a sink and repeat as needed.
3. Use a Humidifier
Humidifiers are devices that keep the air in a room moist. These devices come in a variety of sizes and are commonly used in the winter months as dry air moves in. A humidifier can help moisten and rehydrate the throat, and also reduce congestion in the throat and nasal passages associated with allergies or infections. These devices can be used as needed and are often used at bedtime to ease sleeping while treating an itchy throat. It’s important to keep the humidifier clean to avoid mold and bacteria build up in the device. Keep the humidifier clean by changing the water daily and use distilled water if possible. Empty the water tank and dry out the inside before filling up with fresh water. It’s important to regularly scrub or brush the inside as well. Taking a hot shower is another easy way to humidify the air that can help moisten the throat and reduce congestion.
4. Add Honey
Along with being used to add some sweetness to foods, honey is a commonly used home remedy. In a review of several clinical trials, honey was found to likely improve upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) in patients with the strongest evidence for improving cough frequency and cough severity. Research has shown that honey has some anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. Honey may help soothe an itchy throat and reduce cough associated with infections. Honey can be added to warm glasses of water or hot teas. Because honey carries a risk of containing a bacteria that causes botulism, honey should not be given to infants under 1 year old.
5. Add Lemon
Along with being used in a variety of food dishes and beverages, lemon is a commonly used home remedy. Adding lemon to a warm beverage, such as water or tea, may help ease throat pain or an itchy throat associated with conditions like infections or allergies. Lemon can help loosen mucus in the throat that may be the cause of an itchy sensation. In addition, lemon contains vitamin C that can help boost the immune system during illness like the flu.
How to prevent an itchy throat
An itchy throat can be caused by a variety of reasons, so there are several ways to help prevent an itchy throat. In general, it is important for everyone to stay hydrated, quit smoking if applicable, and prevent the spread of infection that can lead to uncomfortable symptoms in the throat.
- Keep up with regular hand washing for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Use plain soap and pay special attention to the fingernails, between the fingers, and the wrists.
- Use alcohol-based hand rubs for disinfecting hands if a sink is not available.
- Wash hands after coughing, blowing the nose, or sneezing.
- Use tissues to cover the mouth when sneezing or coughing and dispose of tissues promptly. Sneezing/coughing into the sleeve (at the inner elbow) is another way to contain sprays of saliva and secretions.
If the cause of an itchy throat is known, such as acid reflux, allergies, or an infection, it is best to treat the medical condition to help prevent an itchy throat.
- Acid reflux that leads to heartburn can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications including antacids, H2 blockers, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). Some of the most common medicines used for heartburn include omeprazole (Prilosec), esomeprazole (Nexium), and famotidine (Pepcid).
- Allergies that lead to bothersome symptoms like itchy throat, sneezing, coughing, and runny nose can be treated with OTC medications, including antihistamines and decongestants. Common allergy drugs include cetirizine (Zyrtec), fexofenadine (Allegra), and loratadine (Claritin).
- Bacterial infections that affect the respiratory system and lead to throat symptoms can be treated with antibiotics. If the infection is viral, antibiotics will not help treat the infection. Strep throat is a common bacterial infection in the throat and tonsils caused by bacteria called group A Streptococcus. The most common drugs used to treat strep throat are penicillin V, amoxicillin, clindamycin, cephalexin, and azithromycin.
When to see a doctor for an itchy throat
While natural remedies may relieve an itchy throat, it is important to seek immediate medical attention if the itchy throat suddenly gets worse and other severe symptoms develop, such as difficulty breathing, wheezing, trouble swallowing, or a swollen face as this could be a sign of a serious allergic reaction.
If an itchy throat lingers and does not improve, it is important to visit a healthcare provider for medical care to determine the cause and treat the condition. Depending on the underlying cause of the itchy throat, it may last a few days or a few weeks. Viruses may last up to ten days, while allergy symptoms may last longer.