How To Treat Dry Throat In Yourself Or Your Child
Tips For Treating A Dry Throat
Written by Dr. Lyssa Logue - Genexa Healthcare Provider & Partner on October 11, 2021
Medically reviewed by Camille Freking, MS Pharmacology
Dry throat can cause an itchy, painful feeling that makes it hard to speak, eat, and even breathe. When you or your child are experiencing dry throat, you want relief fast, but it’s important to know what is causing your dry throat before trying to relieve the symptoms.
We’ll discuss some of the most common causes of dry throat and how to treat dry throat in yourself or your child.
What is dry throat?
Dry throat is a scratchy, rough, and occasionally itchy feeling that occurs in the back of the throat. The condition commonly occurs when the mucus membranes at the back of the throat become drier than normal, which can occur for a number of different reasons.
What causes dry throat?
There are a number of different causes of dry throat, including medical conditions and lifestyle causes. The most common medical causes of dry throat are outlined below.
Hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
Dry throat can occur as a result of hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, which can occur in response to perennial or seasonal allergies. People with allergies have a strong immune response to something that normally is not harmful, known as an allergen. Common allergens include things like grass, pet dander, dust mites, pollen, and mold.
If you are exposed to one of your allergens, your body mounts an immune response and releases a chemical called histamines, which causes symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, congestion, itchy eyes, and more. As a result, you may breathe through your mouth, which can cause your throat to dry out.
The common cold is a viral infection that can be caused by many different types of viruses. Dry throat is one of the symptoms of the common cold, along with a runny nose, sneezing, body aches, cough, and mild fever.
Acid reflux, sometimes referred to as heartburn, is a condition in which acid from your stomach backs up into your esophagus, creating a painful, burning feeling. Depending on how much acid backs up into your esophagus, it could reach your throat, causing dryness, burning, and pain.
People who experience acid reflux regularly may have a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is a chronic condition that causes regular acid reflux.
Strep throat is a type of painful bacterial infection of the throat. While the most common symptom of strep throat is a sore throat, some people may experience a dry throat as well. Signs of strep throat include tonsils that are red or swollen, white spots on the tonsils, fever, body aches, rash, nausea, vomiting, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
The flu is a viral illness that causes more severe symptoms than the common cold. In addition to a dry, sore throat, people commonly experience symptoms of the flu like fever, cough, muscle aches, fatigue, chills, stuffy or runny nose, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The flu can be potentially dangerous and even life threatening and is associated with complications like pneumonia, sinus infections, asthma attacks in asthmatic individuals, bronchitis, and ear infections.
A tonsil infection, commonly known as tonsillitis, can be caused by viruses and bacteria alike. The condition has similar symptoms to strep throat but typically does not cause a rash, nausea, vomiting, or body aches. Instead, patients may experience bad breath, a headache, or a hoarse voice along with swollen, inflamed tonsils with white spots, a fever, and swollen lymph nodes.
Commonly referred to as mono, mononucleosis is a viral illness that passes through saliva. Mono is commonly associated with a dry throat and also causes fatigue, headache, fever, swollen tonsils and swollen lymph nodes in the neck or armpits.
In addition to the medical conditions listed above, dry throat can also occur as a result of smoking tobacco or marijuana products, vomiting, voice strain, excessive coughing, and certain types of cancer.
If you do not drink enough fluids throughout the day, you could be experiencing dry throat as a result of dehydration. When your body does not have enough fluids, especially water, you are unable to produce the normal amount of saliva you need in order to properly lubricate your mouth and throat. Other symptoms of dehydration can include dry mouth, darker urine, urinating less often than normal, dizziness, fatigue, and increased thirst.
Sleeping with your mouth open
If you most commonly experience a dry throat in the morning when you wake up, it is likely that you are sleeping with your mouth open, which causes your saliva to dry up and leaves your mouth and throat feeling parched. People often sleep with their mouths open due to congestion or a condition called sleep apnea, which may require treatment by a doctor.
How can you treat dry throat in yourself or your child?
The best way to treat a dry throat in yourself or your child depends on the cause of your dry throat. If your dry throat is not attributable to a medical cause listed above, ensure that smoking, voice strain, and other lifestyle factors are not playing a role in your symptoms.
Hay fever or allergies
An allergy attack can cause a dry throat and other uncomfortable symptoms regardless of whether you have perennial or seasonal allergies.
Try to avoid your allergy triggers as much as possible, such as keeping the windows closed during times of heavy pollen, and consider taking over the counter allergy products or talking to your doctor about prescription options if your symptoms are severe.
Colds are caused by viruses, which means that treating them with antibiotics won’t help. Instead, you’ll unfortunately have to wait for the illness to run its course.
To help you feel better in the meantime, you can try taking over the counter cold medications that will help relieve your symptoms. Drinking lots of warm, clear liquids, gargling with salt water, sucking on a throat lozenge, and getting plenty of rest will also help.
Treating symptoms of acid reflux, including a dry throat, may require the use of an over the counter medication or prescription drug to help lower the acidity of the stomach acid and reduce acid production.
Medications that are used to treat symptoms of acid reflux include antacids, H2 inhibitors, and proton pump inhibitors. However, preventing acid reflux in the future might require you to make some lifestyle changes, including maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, avoiding spicy or fatty foods, sleeping with your head elevated, and more.
Strep throat is a bacterial infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics. Most people find that their dry throat and other symptoms start to improve in about two days once they start taking antibiotics. In order to completely kill the infection, it is important to take all of your medication exactly as prescribed, even when you start to feel better.
Like the common cold, the flu is caused by a virus and cannot be treated with antibiotics. However, antiviral medications can help to reduce discomfort and shorten the amount of time that you’re sick if you take them as soon as you start to experience flu symptoms.
When sick with the flu, you can try taking over the counter flu medications to ease your symptoms, gargling with warm salt water, drinking lots of warm fluids, sucking on a throat lozenge, and getting plenty of rest.
Tonsillitis that is caused by bacteria can be treated with antibiotics, while viral tonsillitis will run its course in about seven to ten days. Regardless of the cause of your tonsillitis, it is possible to improve the symptoms of a dry, sore throat by drinking lots of warm fluids, gargling with warm salt water, sucking on throat lozenges, and getting plenty of rest.
Mono is caused by a virus, which means it cannot be treated with medication. It may take several weeks for your body to get over the infection and even longer until you feel completely back to normal.
Drinking extra fluids, taking over the counter pain medications, sucking on throat lozenges, and gargling with salt water can all help to get your throat feeling better, but getting plenty of rest is equally important.
If your dry throat is due to dehydration, drink extra fluids throughout the day. Drinking extra water and decaffeinated beverages that will help keep you hydrated, such as sports drinks, will help your dry throat. Steer clear of caffeinated beverages and alcohol, which can make dehydration worse.
Sleeping with your mouth open
People who experience a dry throat as a result of sleeping with their mouth open can try using an adhesive nasal strip on the bridge of their nose to improve nasal airflow during sleep. If you are experiencing sleep apnea, you need to speak to a doctor about the condition in order to get access to prescription treatment devices.
In order to treat dry throat in yourself or your child, it’s important to know what is causing the dry throat. Dry throat is commonly caused by medical conditions like hay fever or allergies, common cold, acid reflux, strep throat, flu, tonsillitis, mono, dehydration, and sleeping with your mouth open, as well as certain lifestyle factors.
Some over the counter medications may be able to reduce the discomfort associated with dry throat, but patients should also make sure they drink plenty of water and get enough rest when they are feeling sick.