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How do you cure a dry throat?

Experiencing a dry throat is common, particularly in the cold winter months. But what causes a dry throat and how can it be treated?

There are many reasons why someone might develop a dry throat. Most of the causes are minor, but sometimes a dry throat may be the result of a more serious underlying condition.

This article explores the causes, medical treatments, and home remedies for a dry throat.

Fast facts on dry throat:

  • Allergic conditions, like hay fever and others, may cause a dry throat.
  • There are medical treatments and home remedies available for a dry throat.
  • It is a good idea to see a doctor if symptoms last for longer than 1 to 2 weeks.

What are the causes?

The different causes and associated symptoms of a dry throat are explored below:

Hayfever and other allergies

Mn with dry throat clutching his neck in pain, and holding a glass of water.
Potential causes of a dry throat include allergies, dehydration, and tonsillitis.

Around 30 to 40 percent of the world s population is affected by allergies. When a person has seasonal allergies, substances in their environment cause their immune system to overreact.

Common triggers include:

  • pollen
  • grass
  • mold
  • dust mites
  • pet hair
  • certain foods

For a person with seasonal allergies, these allergens cause the immune system to release a chemical called histamine.

As well as a dry throat, the histamine released in an allergic reaction may cause:

  • a cough
  • stuffy or runny nose
  • itchy skin, mouth, or eyes

Sleeping with the mouth open

If a person falls asleep with their mouth open, they may wake up with a dry throat. This also happens if a person starts breathing through their mouth when they are asleep.

When the mouth is left open, air dries the saliva a person produces to keep their mouth moist. As a result, their throat and mouth may feel dry when they wake up.

Someone can also snore and end up with bad breath if they keep their mouth open when sleeping.

Dehydration

When a person is dehydrated, they may get a dry throat. Other signs of dehydration include:

  • feeling very thirsty
  • urinating less
  • having dark urine
  • tiredness
  • dizziness

Dehydration is caused by not drinking enough water.

Common cold

Woman blowing her nose with handkerchief.
The common cold may cause a dry or sore throat, alongside a runny nose or sneezing.

A dry throat may be a symptom of the common cold. The common cold is a term for an infection that is caused by one of several different viruses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC, an adult will get 2 to 3 colds each year, on average. A cold may make a person s throat feel dry, scratchy, or sore. The underlying infection may also cause:

  • runny, stuffy nose
  • sneezing
  • a cough
  • mild fever
  • body aches

Flu

A dry, scratchy, or a sore throat may be a symptom of influenza, otherwise known as the flu.

The flu is a respiratory illness caused by an influenza virus. According to the CDC, flu symptoms usually begin an average of 2 days after a person has been exposed to the flu virus.

The flu is more serious than the common cold, and a person with the flu may need bed rest.

Mononucleosis

A dry, scratchy throat may be a symptom of mononucleosis. This is a disease that is usually caused by an infection by the Epstein-Barr virus. It is most frequently passed on through a person s bodily fluids, with saliva transmission being very common.

Mononucleosis is commonly known as mono or the kissing disease. It most often affects teenagers and those of college age, but a person may catch it at any time in their life.

As well as a dry, scratchy, or a sore throat, the symptoms of mono include:

  • fever
  • swollen lymph nodes in neck and armpits
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • muscle weakness
  • swollen tonsils
  • night sweats

Mono typically lasts 2 to 4 weeks, but for some, their body may take longer to recover.

Acid reflux

A dry throat may be a symptom of acid reflux. The acid in the food pipe causes a burning, dry throat, as well as:

  • trouble swallowing
  • a dry cough
  • hoarse voice
  • burping

The proper name for this condition is gastroesophageal reflux disease, abbreviated to GERD. It causes acid to come up from the stomach into the food pipe.

Tonsillitis

A dry throat may be a symptom of tonsilitis. This is inflammation of the tonsils, which is commonly caused by infection with a virus but can also be caused by bacteria. The tonsils are fleshy lumps at the back of the throat that help fight infections.

As well as a dry, scratchy, or a sore throat, symptoms of tonsillitis include:

  • swollen, red, or white patches on the tonsils
  • fever
  • hoarse voice
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • headache
  • bad breath

Strep throat

A dry throat may be a symptom of strep throat. This is a throat infection that leads to a very sore, dry throat. It is caused by the bacterium, Streptococcus pyogenes.

Other symptoms of strep throat include:

  • swollen, red, or white patchy tonsils
  • fever
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • rash
  • nausea and vomiting
  • body aches

Treatments and home remedies

The best treatment for a dry throat depends on the underlying cause, as follows:

Hayfever and other allergies

Woman using nasal spray decongestant.
Nasal decongestants may help to treat a dry throat caused by hayfever.

Medical treatments for hayfever include the following:

  • antihistamine medications, these may be prescribed or over-the-counter
  • corticosteroid nasal sprays, eye drops, or tablets
  • nasal decongestants
  • moisturizing eye drops
  • allergen immunotherapy allergy shots

Immunotherapy involves gradually increasing exposure to allergens in controlled conditions. This aims to help the immune system become tolerant of them, reducing allergy symptoms over time.

Dietary home remedies for hayfever include eating more of the following:

  • Ginger: According to this 2016 study, the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger may reduce symptoms of hayfever.
  • Garlic: This is a good source of quercetin, an antioxidant with an antihistamine effect.
  • Onion: This is another good source of quercetin.

Sleeping with mouth open

Mouth breathing while asleep may be caused by nasal congestion, which can be treated with:

  • nasal decongestants
  • antihistamines
  • corticosteroid nasal sprays

An adhesive strip that is worn over the bridge of the nose may also reduce mouth breathing.

Dehydration

If a person is feeling dehydrated, they should drink fluids to rehydrate. By drinking more fluid, someone will be less fatigued, increase their urine output, and their urine will be lighter in color.

A person should drink an ample amount of water during the day to stay hydrated. Alcohol, coffee, and other caffeinated drinks should be drunk in moderation, as they may lead to dehydration.

Common cold and flu

The following medical and home treatments may help relieve symptoms of the common cold and flu:

  • Hydrating: Drinking plenty of water, juice, or lemon water to stay hydrated.
  • Resting: Getting plenty of rest to allow the body to recover.
  • Gargling: Gargling with plain or salt water may help soothe a dry, sore throat. A 2005 study found this helps to reduce symptoms or even prevent upper respiratory tract infections in otherwise healthy people.
  • Decongesting: Using over-the-counter OTC intranasal drops and sprays may help reduce nasal congestion. Similarly, OTC cough and cold remedies taken orally may help and relieve pain.
  • Humidifying: Breathing in humid air may help ease nasal congestion and throat pain. Similarly, taking a shower or using a steam vaporizer is a good idea.
  • Compressing: Placing a warm compress over the forehead and nose can relieve help sinus pain and headache.

Infectious mononucleosis

The following treatments may help relieve the symptoms of mono:

  • getting plenty of rest
  • taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce fever and relieve pain
  • gargling to help soothe the throat

Acid reflux

The following medical treatments and lifestyle may help relieve acid reflux:

  • Antacids: These help neutralize stomach acid.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Additional weight can put pressure on the stomach, pushing acid back up the food pipe.
  • Wearing loose fitting clothes: This reduces pressure on the stomach.
  • Eating little and often: Avoiding big meals helps reduce acid reflux.
  • Avoiding tobacco smoking: Smoking can reduce the tone of the valve that keeps acid in the stomach.
  • Avoiding spicy, fatty, high caffeine foods: These can increase acid reflux symptoms.

Tonsilitis

Treatments for tonsillitis include:

  • staying hydrated
  • resting
  • taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve pain
  • gargling, breathing humid air, and sucking lozenges to soothe the throat
  • antibiotic therapy for a bacterial infection

Strep throat

A doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to treat strep throat as it is a bacterial infection. To relieve symptoms, the following may also help:

  • taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen to ease pain or fever
  • gargling
  • sucking on lozenges

When to see a doctor

A person should also speak to their doctor if they experience:

  • trouble swallowing
  • wheezing or shortness of breath
  • rash
  • chest pain
  • extreme fatigue
  • high fever over 101.0 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.3 degrees Celsius

Additionally, a doctor should give a medical evaluation if a dry throat continues for more than 1 to 2 weeks.