Dry Throat – Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Clinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
Last Modified:

Table of Contents

  1. Causes of Dry Throat
  2. Signs & Symptoms
  3. Medications to Treat Dry Throat
  4. Home Remedies
  5. References

A dry throat is best explained as that scratchy, rough and often itchy feeling in the back of your throat. The condition is common, especially during the cold and flu seasons and during times of the year when the weather is cold. External outside conditions can set the stage for a stuffy nose, a runny nose, a sinus infection or an upper respiratory infection.

A raspy throat usually signals a minor body dysfunction. In these instances, the throat returns to normal within a few days or less.

At times, such a condition is an accompanying sign of a serious medical condition or disease. When this is the case, a dry throat recurs. 

Acute throat infections are the most common reasons why people visit their general practitioner.

What Causes a Dry Throat? 

Numerous conditions and factors cause a dry throat. While some of these are common, others are unique and may require medical intervention.

Some of the common causes of dry throat include:

  • Hay fever and other allergies

  • Cold, flue and other viral infections

  • Smoke and chemical irritants

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Nearly 40% of the population is affected by some type of seasonal, environmental, drug or food allergy. Most are seasonal allergies, where conditions in the area where you live have changed because of the time of year, and your body overreacts to that. The reaction is triggered by your immune system, which then creates symptoms such as watery eyes, nasal congestion, a low-grade fever and, often, throat irritation. 

Common allergies include mold, pollen, grass, pet hair (and dander), dust mites and certain foods, such as nuts.

About 90% all dry throat cases are the result of a viral infection. Viruses that have a reputation for causing sore throats include influenza, the common cold, mumps, chickenpox, mononucleosis and measles.

More recently, throat soreness was also one of many early-stage symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus and its variant viruses.

Numerous chemical irritants can cause throat irritation. Industrial chemicals and cleaning products are prime examples, as is tobacco smoke. Pollutants found in the air from environmental pollution can also contribute to this condition.

In recent years, researchers documented massive waves of Saharan dust and sand blowing across the Atlantic Ocean to the east coast of the United States and beyond.

GERD is a medical condition that causes stomach acid to rise up the esophagus. This acid carries food material and may burn the throat and esophagus. Common signs of Gerd are dry throat, acid reflux, and heartburn.

Other commonly recognized causes of dry throat include:

  • Certain tumors and cancers 

  • Impact and trauma injuries 

  • Dry air 

  • Strep throat and other bacterial infections 

  • Dehydration 

  • Sleeping with your mouth open

Signs and Symptoms of Dry Throat

The signs of a dry throat vary depending on the causative agent. In some cases, you may experience pain when talking or swallowing. One unique symptom is white patches full of pus forms on the tonsils. This symptom is closely linked to strep throat and may need medical intervention. 

Other common signs and symptoms of dry throat include:

  • A burning sensation in your throat 

  • Tenderness 

  • Rawness and dryness 

  • Easy irritability 

  • Scratchiness 

  • Hoarse voice 

  • Difficulty breathing 

  • Persistent dry cough

From the initial dry throat symptoms, it may prove difficult to pinpoint the exact underlying cause. However, as mentioned above, a dry throat disappears within a few days. If the dryness persists, you can consult your medical service provider.

Together with other symptoms you may be exhibiting, the doctor can properly diagnose and treat the underlying condition while also soothing the dry throat.

Medications to Treat Dry Throat

A significant amount of dry throat cases stem from a minor condition and will improve within a few days. As a result, you can opt for effective home remedies before seeing a doctor. There are numerous home remedies that may help improve your dry throat.

While most of these remedies are effective, they vary in their efficacy degree. If you’re concerned about any remedies, you can consult a healthcare professional for further guidance.

Home Remedies for Dry Throat

Home remedies for dry throat include the constant drinking of water, throat lozenges and gargling with warm salt water.

Keep Your Throat Hydrated

By drinking plenty of water and fluids, you nourish the throat and keep it from drying. Running a humidifier could also help. Steam from a hot shower can also soothe, hydrate, and lubricate your throat.

Use Lozenges

Sucking a throat lozenge boosts saliva production to coat the throat and reduce dryness. Lozenges can also help reduce pain and itchiness caused by the dry throat. 

Gargle with Warm Salty Water 

Salt draws moisture from surrounding environments. When you gargle with salty water, it draws moisture from nearby tissues to help lubricate the throat. 

Ideally, these remedies can reduce the pain and discomfort brought by a dry throat. If, after a few days, there’s no relief, you may consider seeing a specialist. Some of the other warning signs that should warrant a doctor’s visit include: 

  • Noticeable blood in your phlegm or saliva 

  • Fever over 101F or 38C 

  • Pain and trouble breathing 

  • A painful and stiff neck 

  • Difficulty opening your mouth 

Ultimately, a dry throat can be caused by a number of conditions and ailments. Most of these are easily manageable, and the dry throat should get better within days. The information shared above will help you better care for dry throat and seek medical help when necessary.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.