Do you often feel an urge to clear your throat? Does it feel as if you have an irritant in your throat? You are not alone. Many people, consciously or unconsciously, try to vibrate the muscles in their throat to relieve the irritation. It is normal if you do it occasionally, but you may have an underlying condition that makes you experience persistent discomfort in your throat.
This sometimes takes the form of an itchy feeling that leads to constant throat clearing. The discomfort or itchy feeling may only be limited to the back of your tongue, but it may also be specific to a structure within your throat, such as your voice box or tonsils.
Common Causes of Constant Throat Clearing
You may feel an urge to clear your throat due to many different reasons, which include:
1. Acid Reflux
You develop a condition called acid reflux when your stomach acids travel up into the esophagus. Common symptoms of acid reflux include heartburn, burping, stomach fullness or bloating.The medical term for this condition is gastroesophageal reflux if your stomach acids move up only into the esophagus, butif the acidsare spilled over from the esophagus onto your vocal cords then it is called laryngopharyngeal reflux.
2. Seasonal Allergies
Constant throat clearingmay indicate that you have allergies. If it happens only during a specific season, you are more likely to be a victim of seasonal allergies, which can be triggered by ragweed, pollen, mould, or other irritants that cause itchiness in the throat and inflammation in the nose. Constant tickling in your throat will make you want to clear your throat often.
3. Asthma and Lung Diseases
The sensitivity of the lower airways can sometimes develop a breathing condition called asthma. The sensitivity will constrict your airways and make it difficult to breathe. Sometimes, you also have sensitivity between the throat and voice box, which will lead to constant throat clearing.Certain lung conditions, such as bronchitis can trigger the production of mucus in the lungs that will cause irritation and make you clear your throat through coughing. Other symptoms of bronchitis include chest discomfort, fatigue, shortness of breath, and slight fever.
4. Side Effects of Medications
You may feel the need to clear your throat because you’re using certain medications, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. The medication helps relax your blood vessels to lower your blood pressure. Coughing and constant throat clearing is among the side effects of these medications.
5. Other Factors
Some anatomical factors of the uvula, throat, or tonsils may cause irritation in your throat. Other issues such as post-nasal drip, chronic sinus infections, or chronic cough will also lead to a feeling of coughing and clearing your throat.
Should I See a Doctor?
Excessive throat clearing can cause vocal cord trauma. Your vocal cords are two bands of muscle that make sound by vibrating. When you clear your throat, your vocal cords slam together, thus, excessive repetition of this motion can lead to hoarseness and pain in the throat. You should contact your doctor if your throat clearing is causing disruption to your life. Your doctor will determine the root cause of it, which helps them select an appropriate treatment option.
How Can I Stop Throat Clearing?
In some cases, throat clearing becomes a habit, but, luckily, you can take some steps to break it. For starters,drink plenty of waterto ensure your vocal cords stay lubricated. Instead of coughing, take sips of water to clear your throat. Some studies show ice-cold carbonated water is even more effective. If you have to cough, do it gently to avoid damaging your vocal cords. You may even try to laugh, hum, or talk your way through that itchy moment to prevent constant throat clearing.
In addition, for people with laryngopharyngeal reflux, the most common medical condition related to constant throat clearing, there are some helpful remedies.
- You may have to make some lifestyle changes to deal with reflux. For instance, you should keep your head elevated when in bed. Try cinder blocks to raise your body from the waist. You can also use multiple pillows or even consider sleeping in a recliner to prevent stomach content from moving up into your throat.
- Changing your diet may also help. Eat smaller meals more often and do not eat too close to bedtime. Avoid citrus, tomatoes, spicy food, soda, tea, coffee, alcohol, tobacco, and cigarettes. It is also a good idea to wear loose-fitting clothes that are not tight around the waist.
- Moreover, you should try chewing gum to promote saliva and neutralize acid.
- Finally, you should drink plenty of water and sports dink while avoiding coughing, whispering, and yelling to improve your condition. Do not sing when your vocal cords are damaged.
When simple homecare measures do not work, you may have to take certain medications to prevent constant throat clearing.For instance:
- Your doctor may suggest proton pump inhibitors such as dexlansoprazole, rabeprazole, lansoprazole, esomeprazole, omeprazole or sodium bicarbonate. Using these inhibitors will help reduce gastric acid.
- You can also reduce gastric acid by using H2 blockers such as famotidine, nizatidine, ranitidine, or cimetidine.
- Some people benefit from prokinetic agents that increase the forward movement of gastrointestinal tract, but be aware that some of these medications may lead to several side effects.
- Using sucralfate is a good idea because it helps protect your injured mucous membranes.
- Taking antacids will also help by neutralizing acid. They work effectively to treat symptoms of heartburn.
- Some people see good effects by taking self-care measures and certain medications, but others will need long-term treatment. In rare cases, your doctor will recommend surgery, which usually happens when your symptoms do not improve after regular self-care and medical management.