What Is an Itchy Throat?
An itchy throat is a classic
sign of allergies or an allergic reaction. Inhaled irritants can aggravate the
throat, causing it to feel scratchy and uncomfortable.
What Causes an Itchy Throat?
Allergies are one of the most
common causes of an itchy throat. An allergic reaction occurs when a substance
called an allergen triggers an immune system response in your body. Examples of
common allergy triggers that can cause an itchy throat include:
- animal dander
- foods, such as peanut butter, dairy or
- pollen (found in trees, grass, or ragweed)
Allergies can range from mild to
severe. An itchy throat can indicate a milder yet bothersome allergic reaction.
Inhaling pollutants, such as
chemicals, cleaning products, tobacco smoke, or pesticides, can also lead to an
Viral infections, such as a
common cold or strep throat, can start as an itchy throat before progressing to
soreness and/or pain.
What Are the Symptoms of an Itchy Throat?
The throat is subject to several
different symptoms — “itchy,” “swelling,” or “scratchy” are some possible descriptors.
When you experience an itchy throat, it’s important to distinguish between
these and other symptoms. An itchy throat feels uncomfortable, and it can feel
as if you need to clear your throat frequently. An itchy throat does not,
however, make your throat feel rough, raw, or as if you can’t breathe.
When to Seek Medical Help
While an itchy throat isn’t typically a medical emergency,
it can be a troublesome symptom. If your symptoms don’t improve with time or
home care, seek medical attention.
A doctor will start diagnosing your itchy throat by asking
about your medical history and what occurs when you experience your itchy throat.
For example, if your itchy throat occurs after going outside, it could indicate
an allergy to outdoor dust or pollen. If your doctor suspects a food allergy, they
may ask you to keep a food journal. In the journal, you’ll track the foods you
eat and any symptoms you experience after eating them.
Your doctor also may recommend allergy testing, which
involves exposing the skin to small amounts of known irritants, including pet
dander, molds, grasses, and pollen. If the skin reacts to a particular
irritant, this indicates an allergy.
Physically examining the throat for redness, swelling, and
other signs of inflammation can also help your doctor make a diagnosis.
How Is an Itchy Throat Treated?
If your itchy throat is related
to allergies, an antihistamine can help to block the body’s inflammatory
response. Over-the-counter antihistamines are available. If they don’t relieve
your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe a stronger medicine or one that works
in a different manner.
How Do I Care for an Itchy Throat?
At-home methods for treating your
itchy throat include drinking plenty of fluids. You may also want to gargle
with warm salt water, which can help relieve inflammation. Create the gargling
solution by adding a half-teaspoon of salt to warm water.
Using lozenges or throat sprays
that have a numbing effect on the throat may also provide relief. These
products contain ingredients such as benzocaine, eucalyptus oil, or menthol as
If your itchy throat is related
to exposure to an allergen, avoidance of that allergen whenever possible can
typically help to resolve symptoms.
How Can I Prevent an Itchy Throat?
Avoiding known allergy causes can help prevent an itchy
throat from occurring. Take steps to prevent infection, including washing your hands
frequently. This can help to prevent itchy throat caused by common colds or