How to Treat a Throat Tickle

It starts innocently enough; a throat tickle or irritation, a bit of a cough…..before you know it, you are coughing every few minutes and wondering what is the cause of it all.  More than anything else, you are wondering how you can make it stop.

Facts about the throat

The throat is the chute by which food and fluids are transported to the esophagus and air is carried to the windpipe.  It consists of the pharynx, larynx and the epiglottis at the top, and the upper portion of the esophagus and the trachea at the lower quadrant.  Opening your mouth and saying “aaahhh” reveals the pharynx.  The larynx provides a passageway for air from the nose and mouth toward the trachea, while the esophagus carries food and fluids in the direction of the stomach.  The epiglottis serves to block the larynx from food that is swallowed.    

Inside the throat, mucous membranes keep the throat well lubricated in order to keep it functioning properly.  Sensitive nerves that are located within the membranes can become irritated when certain conditions affect its normal function.  When production of mucous from the membranes is altered in any way, the nerves can become irritated and create that irritating throat tickle. 

Causes for throat tickle

A tickle in the throat occurs naturally every now and then for no apparent reason and often disappears as quickly as it starts.  Sometimes, though, it continues to cause a recurrent problem.  Some of the reasons for the problem are preventable, while others can be treated.

  • Dehydration.  When the body becomes dehydrated, mucous membranes are unable to produce the mucous that lubricates.  Since the throat depends on this production for ease in swallowing, the lack of mucous causes the throat to dry out.  The dryness irritates the nerves which in turn creates a tickly feeling.  Treating the condition will first require a closer look at the cause of the dehydration.  It could be a simple matter of increasing your intake of fluids, but it may also be a condition created by an illness.  If you have not experienced diarrhea nor have diabetes, you may be able to amend your diet.  Decreasing the amount of caffeine in your diet, which is a natural diuretic, may just do the trick.

  • Smoking.  Smoking cigarettes or cigars serves to put a coating of tar on the inner walls of your throat.  Tar is harmful to the tender mucous membranes, and may dry out the normally lubricated throat; it can also lead to throat cancer.  The only way to ease this dryness is to stop smoking.

  • Strain.  Shouting or yelling at an event such as sports or a concert can strain the throat and result in throat tickle and hoarseness.  Snoring is another way that the membranes can dry out and become strained.  Soothing the passageway with honey is a great way to ease the dryness, as well as eating ice cream or yogurt.

  • Allergies.  Elements in the air that cause allergic reactions may result in either overproduction or underproduction of mucous.  Either imbalance will cause that irritation in the throat.  Taking a decongestant may provide the relief to stop the irritation.

  • Blocked nasal passages.  When the nasal passages become blocked due to a cold or allergy symptom, people are forced to breathe through their mouth which can dry out the mucous membranes in the throat.  Wearing the breathe strips that open nasal passages can help to relieve this condition.

  • Post nasal drip.  When excess mucous is produced, whatever is not needed to lubricate will begin to drip down the back of the throat.  This slow procession of thick mucus creates an irritating throat tickle as it makes its way down the throat. 

  • Infection.  Throat tickle that results from an infection will develop into a sore and inflamed throat.  Treating the early symptoms with an oral antiseptic may provide relief; antibiotics may be needed to fully clear the virus causing the condition from the system.

  • Coughing.  Sometimes we swallow something or breathe in something unintentionally that can set off a coughing fit as the body tries to remedy the situation.  This can take up to an hour before the body feels it has eliminated the offending element.  By the time the coughing is finished, the throat can be dry and irritated.  This in turn creates the issue of the throat tickle due to dryness.  It is best to suck on a cough drop or to swallow a spoonful of honey to soothe the distressed membranes.

There are many medical conditions from colds to tonsillitis and more that can have a throat tickle as one of the symptoms.  It is also possible that your diet or lifestyle is causing the condition.  Before you treat the tickle, try to think what may have caused it.  If you yourself are not a smoker, have you been spending time around a smoker or in a smoke filled room?  Have you experienced any other symptoms that could be indicative of a medical problem?  Have you been consuming a lot of caffeinated beverages?  All of these could lead to the problem of that irritating tickle at the back of your throat, and in many cases, you can put a stop to the problem by simply identifying the cause.