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How To Treat A Dry Throat

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment For Dry Throat

Written by Dr. Lina Patel on October 13, 2021

Medically reviewed by Camille Freking, MS Pharmacology

A dry throat can be a highly annoying symptom, especially when you cannot seem to figure out what is causing your discomfort.

Determining the cause on your own can be a difficult task because many colds, infections, and illnesses share symptoms, so it may be necessary to consult a doctor. Sometimes, though, a dry throat is caused by nothing more than a dry mouth, and this can easily be treated.
Whatever the cause may be, there is a high chance that you will be able to manage your symptoms in the comfort of your own home. This is your complete guide to treating a dry throat with everything from home remedies to over-the-counter medications.

What Can Cause a Dry Throat?

The first step towards effectively relieving a dry throat is to determine what exactly is causing this symptom in the first place.

If you are dealing with a dry throat, a dry mouth may be the culprit. This happens when your salivary glands do not produce enough saliva to keep your mouth wet, and it can take a toll on your throat and your teeth and gums.

What is a Dry Mouth Caused By?

Dry mouth can have a few different causes, including:

  • Medication side effects: Believe it or not, plenty of medications can actually cause dry mouth as a side effect. Most often, the medications that cause this issue are those used to treat anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, congestion, allergies, and pain.
  • Age: Dry mouth may become a more prevalent issue for you as you age, and things like inadequate nutrition or long-term health problems can contribute to this issue.
  • Cancer therapy: The drugs involved in chemotherapy can result in less saliva being produced, thus causing dry mouth.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use: Drinking alcohol or using tobacco can cause dry mouth or make it worse.
  • Recreational drug use: Marijuana and methamphetamine are two examples of recreational drugs that can cause dry mouth.

If it sounds like dry mouth might be the cause of your problems, you should consult your doctor for further guidance.

Dry Throat Caused By Pharyngitis

Pharyngitis is basically another word for sore throat, which may be your problem if you feel like your throat is dry. Pharyngitis happens when the back of your throat becomes irritated and swollen, and it is most often caused by a cold or the flu.

That said, bacteria can also cause pharyngitis, and in these cases antibiotics may be necessary. Strep throat is one example of a bacterial infection that will cause a sore throat.

If your sore throat is being caused by a cold or another form of illness, it will likely be accompanied by other symptoms like congestion or a runny nose, a fever, headaches, muscle aches, or swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

Treating Your Symptoms

Treating Dry Mouth

If you believe that dry mouth is causing your discomfort, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. Typically, a dry mouth diagnosis will start with your doctor reviewing your medical history and any medications you are taking in order to determine whether or not dry mouth may be a side effect.

Sometimes, blood tests, imaging scans of your salivary glands, or tests that measure your saliva production may be necessary to get to the bottom of your issue. Once the cause is determined, you can start treatment.

The specific plan of treatment will depend on the cause of your case of dry mouth, but treatment options include:

  • Changing medications: If it has been determined that one of the medications you are currently taking has dry mouth as a potential side effect, your doctor may instruct you to switch to a different medication and see if your problem improves. Alternatively, your doctor might simply adjust the dosage of your current medication.
  • Products that moisturize your mouth: Your doctor or dentist may recommend that you start using certain products that can help moisturize your mouth like certain mouth rinses, artificial saliva, or moisturizers that work to lubricate your mouth.

If you have severe or persistent dry mouth, your doctor might prescribe medication that increases your saliva production by stimulating the salivary glands, or your dentist may fit you for fluoride trays in order to help protect your teeth from cavities. Dry mouth can make cavities more likely since saliva acts to keep your mouth healthy, so this extra step may be necessary.

Natural Ways To Treat Colds and illnesses

If your or your child’s dry throat is being caused by a cold, the flu, or another form of illness, there are plenty of ways that you can manage the symptoms.

Common home remedies for a sore, dry throat include:

  • Gargling with salt water: Mixing some salt into a cup of warm water and using it to gargle can help ease the irritation and inflammation that causes a sore throat. Plus, saltwater is also highly effective at killing bacteria and loosening mucus. Doing this a few times a day may help ease your discomfort in no time.
  • Using honey: Raw honey has natural soothing and antibacterial properties, making it great for easing the pain caused by a bacterial infection. Mixing two tablespoons of honey into a glass of warm water or a cup of your favorite tea can soothe your irritated throat, and can also help suppress a cough if you are struggling with one.
  • Lemon: Lemon is another great remedy for a sore throat because of its ability to break up mucus. Plus, lemons are full of vitamin C, which can give your immune system a much-needed boost while you fight off your cold. Mixing one teaspoon of lemon juice into a glass of warm water, or adding it to some tea along with honey, can make for a great source of relief.
  • Tea: Certain kinds of herbal tea can help ease cold and flu symptoms. Green tea and clove tea, for example, have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, thus making them effective at fighting infections while also easing the inflammation in your throat.
  • Adding moisture to the air: Adding moisture into the air can soothe a dry, sore throat because dry air can cause further irritation. Using a humidifier will moisten the air and help open your sinuses, thus soothing your symptoms.
  • Getting plenty of rest: When your body is fighting off illness or infection, getting plenty of rest is one of the best things you can do for yourself. When you are asleep, your body is working hard to recover and heal itself, so making sure to get sufficient rest can speed up your healing process.

The Bottom Line

In order to treat a dry throat, you need to first determine what exactly is causing it. Most often, a dry throat is either a symptom of dry mouth or a symptom of a cold, the flu, a bacterial infection, or another form of illness.

If you are having trouble identifying the cause on your own, you should consult your doctor in order to get to the bottom of the problem so that you can start treatment. Treatment for dry mouth often entails using products formulated to moisturize the mouth, prescription medications that stimulate the salivary glands, or other methods of treatment.

If your dry throat is being caused by illness or infection, you may be able to ease your symptoms with some simple home remedies like tea with lemon and honey, using a humidifier, and getting plenty of rest.