An itchy throat can be one of the most annoying symptoms to deal with these days, mostly because it probably prompts you to immediately ask, “Is it because of XYZ… or is it Covid?”
While a sore throat or a sore throat can most certainly be a sign you have Covid-19, there are a number of other less worrying causes that could be the cause, says Dr. Suneet Singh, an emergency medicine physician and medical director at CareHive Health in Austin, Texas. Whatever the case, we don’t blame you for trying to quell that awkward feeling that causes you to mute yourself during a Zoom meeting while coughing and frantically reaching for your glass of water.
So what causes an itchy throat?
according to dr Singh, while mildly itchy throats are a common experience, sore throats are even more common, so figuring out what you’re dealing with is important. Both are caused by inflammation of the lining of the throat. The good news is that it’s usually nothing to worry about.
“Throat itch is typically caused by allergies, the most common of which are hay fever or seasonal allergies,” he explains. “Sometimes, however, it can be the result of food or drug allergies, [but if not]they can be caused by viral or bacterial infections, just like a sore throat.”
In addition to infections, sore throats and itchy throats can be the result of chemical irritation, such as: B. if you have acid reflux or if you are exposed to tobacco smoke or fumes from cleaning products, he adds.
Sometimes itchy throats are the result of “oral allergy syndrome” or “pollen-food allergy syndrome.” Generally, this happens when someone with a seasonal allergy has a reaction in their mouth and throat to a fruit or vegetable that contains a similar protein. (So, for example, someone with a ragweed allergy might have an itchy throat from eating bananas.) When things go well beyond an itchy throat and you suspect a severe allergic food reaction, your throat may become hoarse or feel as if would it close up right after you eat something and you have other symptoms of a severe allergic reaction throughout your body, such as hives, shortness of breath, weak pulse, dizziness or fainting (see a full list here) – then you need to call 911. But mild but annoying itching in the throat can often be treated at home.
How can you treat an itchy throat?
If your symptoms are mild and you know you’re prone to seasonal allergies, you can usually treat your itchy throat yourself, says Dr. singh. Some home remedies include:
- Over-the-counter throat lozenges
- Salt water gurgles
- Warm liquids like tea or lemon water with a touch of honey
- Cold treats like ice cream or popsicles
- Using a humidifier
- Over-the-counter antihistamines when mild allergies are known to be the cause
When should you see a doctor about an itchy throat?
Of course, there’s always the possibility that an itchy or sore throat could be a sign of something more serious, such as a headache. B. the flu or even Covid-19. If you have other mild symptoms like a runny nose, cough or headache, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to do a rapid Covid test at home or visit a local testing center.
according to dr Singh, you should see a doctor if you experience an itchy or sore throat with any of the following symptoms:
- Strong pain
- wheezing, difficulty breathing, tightness in throat (call 911 if you see these)
- Change in voice quality
- difficulties swallowing
- Difficulty opening your mouth
- Swollen tonsils
- White spots on the tonsils
“Your healthcare professional will work with you to determine what type of test is needed. [which could include] a throat swab (or multiple throat swabs) to look for bacterial infections like strep or viral infections like COVID,” he says. “In some cases, based on the severity of symptoms as well as the overall clinical presentation, imaging tests such as X-rays and CT scans may be indicated.”
The bottom line: Use your judgment to determine if you’re dealing with the mild annoyance of an itchy or scratchy throat, or if you have other symptoms that could indicate something more serious. Even if it’s just a cold, stay home and isolate if you think you may be contagious and seek medical attention if you experience the severe symptoms described above.
Emilia Benton is a Houston-based freelance writer and editor. In addition to Women’s Health, she has contributed health, fitness and wellness content to Runner’s World, SELF, Prevention, Healthline and POPSUGAR, among others. She is also a 10-time marathon runner, frequent traveler and enthusiastic home baker.
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