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.
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 strawberries
- 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 itchy throat.
Viral infections, such as a common cold or strep throat, can start as an itchy throat before progressing to soreness and/or pain.
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.
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.
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.
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 active ingredients.
If your itchy throat is related to exposure to an allergen, avoidance of that allergen whenever possible can typically help to resolve symptoms.
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 strep throat.