Dry throat is a very common complaint in ENT OPDs during this season. Patients come in with varying severity ranging from a recurrent “khich-khich” to severe nails raking down the throat. In most cases no matter the severity, there are five main causes. These are related to lifestyle changes and can be easily addressed at home.
Dry throat – 5 common causes:
1. Inadequate water intake:
This is by far the commonest reason for dry throat, dry mouth, dry lips and dry skin. Our body needs approximately 4 litres of water per day for men and 3 litres per day for women. Our body’s main chemical component is water making almost 70% of body weight. We require water for all our life processes and it needs to be constantly replenished. If you don’t drink enough water, your body gets dehydrated, and water is drawn away from the skin/mucosa to sustain the most necessary functions. This dryness manifests as thirst & dry throat.
2. Seasonal or perennial allergies:
The air is laden with pollen when seasons change. The pollen irritates the mucosal lining of the nose, sinuses, throat, trachea and lungs. Nose and sinuses try to trap and wash off the pollen by secreting mucus. This mucus drips down the throat after moving through the sinuses and the nose. Postnasal drip is the constant drip at the back of the nose. It is visible when examining the throat. Throat has lymphoid tissue that is a part of our immune system. Since the lymphoid tissue is constantly exposed to allergens present in postnasal drip, the throat gets inflamed. These inflamed lymphoid follicles give rise to a bumpy, itchy, razor, dry feeling at the back of the throat. Warm salt water gargles provide relief from this sensation and reduce inflammation. However, if they persist you should visit your ENT doctor.
3. Spicy, oily, fried food:
With the change in season, festivities begin in all parts of the country. Food prepared to celebrate these festivals are usually fried, oily and spicy. These items in excess irritate the pharyngeal lymphoid follicles and tonsils giving rise to itchy dry throat. Therefore, the remedy is restricting the amount of fries and spicy items. adding soothing drinks such as buttermilk, lassi and warm green tea.
4. Chronic gastro-esophageal acid reflux (GERD):
The keyword here is “Chronic”. Once the acute phase gets resolved, chronic reflux is ignored. Chronic reflux leads to acid microdroplets reaching the larynx and the pharynx – causing inflamed throat, which is usually worse in the mornings. No treatment of dry/sore throat is complete without addressing this issue. Home remedies for reflux include cold milk, curd with psyllium husk after meals and avoiding spicy food.
5. Inadequate sleep:
Sleep requirements vary greatly from person to person, based on their age, sex, activity and even season. On average 8 hours of undisturbed sleep is good for most. Lack of sleep is a stressful situation for the body, it weakens the immune system and makes our body prone to all kinds of infections and diseases. Sleep gets disturbed in people who work at night. A dry and itchy throat is a common manifestation. It usually improves on its own when the sleep normalises. An intervention is not needed.
In conclusion, although there are medicines that an ENT specialist can prescribe to soothe your sore throat, these will only be for temporary relief. The dry itchy throat will return once the medicines finish if lifestyle modifications aren’t made.