Dry Throat

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Introduction

What is dry throat?

Dry throat is a rough, scratchy, sometimes itchy feeling in the throat. The most common cause of dry throat is drying out of the mucus membranes, often as a result of exercise, sleeping with your mouth open, breathing through your mouth, living in a dry environment, or simply not drinking enough fluids.

Dry throat is also caused by tobacco or marijuana use, voice strain, vomiting, excessive coughing, throat inflammation, allergies, and, in rare cases, cancers of the throat and esophagus.

Seek prompt medical care if you have white patches on your tonsils (which may be a sign of strep throat or mononucleosis), a persistent or mucus-producing cough, white patches and redness on your tongue or in your mouth that will not go away, fever, or if you have a feeling of something stuck in the throat that will not go away.

Symptoms

What other symptoms might occur with dry throat?

Dry throat may accompany other symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the throat may also involve other body systems.

Respiratory infection-related symptoms that may occur along with dry throat

Dry throat may accompany other symptoms affecting the respiratory system including:

Digestive system symptoms that may occur along with dry throat

Dry throat may accompany symptoms related to the digestive system including:

Other symptoms that may occur along with dry throat

Dry throat may accompany symptoms related to other body systems such as the immune system or circulatory system including:

Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

In some cases, dry throat may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious condition that should be immediately evaluated by a healthcare provider. Seek prompt medical care if you, or someone you are with, have dry throat along with other serious symptoms including:

  • Fever
  • Pus or white patches covering the tonsils or throat
Causes

What causes dry throat?

The most common cause of dry throat is drying out of the mucus membranes, often as a result of exercise, sleeping with your mouth open, breathing through your mouth, living in a dry environment, or simply not drinking enough fluids.

Dry throat is also caused by tobacco or marijuana use, voice strain, vomiting, excessive coughing, throat inflammation, allergies, and, in rare cases, cancers of the throat and esophagus.

Common causes of dry throat

Dry throat may be caused by conditions or disorders including:

  • Allergy

  • Breathing through your mouth

  • Dehydration (loss of body fluids and electrolytes, which can be life threatening when severe and untreated)

  • Dry air

  • Enlarged tonsils

  • Exercise

  • Medication side effects (such as antihistamines)

  • Obstructive sleep apnea

  • Pollution

  • Strep throat (bacterial throat infection)

Other causes of dry throat

In some cases, dry throat may be a symptom of an injury to the throat or an infection. These might be the result of:

  • Cancers of the throat and esophagus, in rare cases
  • Excessive throat clearing or coughing
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Mononucleosis (viral infection)
  • Marijuana use
  • Tobacco use
  • Toxic chemical exposure
  • Voice strain

Questions for diagnosing the cause of dry throat

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your dry throat including:

  • How long has your throat felt dry?
  • Do you smoke either tobacco or marijuana?
  • Have you been vomiting or coughing recently?
  • Have you been exposed to any chemicals or fumes?
  • Have you noticed any white patches or pus in your throat?
  • Are you having any difficulty breathing?
  • Are you having difficulty swallowing?
  • Have you experienced any fever or chills?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of dry throat?

Because dry throat can be due to serious diseases or injuries, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Adverse drug reactions
  • Rheumatic fever (complication of strep throat)
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2018 Dec 28
  1. Sore throat. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/sorethroat.html.
  2. Throat problems. FamilyDoctor.org. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/health-tools/search-by-symptom/throat-problems.html.
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