Tickle In the Throat?
Updated: Mar 25, 2019
Tickle in your throat that won't go away?
We understand how annoying this can be - especially if your tickle has been going on for weeks. You don't feel sick, it seems to go away during the day and then like clockwork, as soon as you lay down to sleep that tickle creeps up the back of your throat. Not only can that tickle keep you up at night, but the constant coughing can irritate more than your own throat...just ask your coworkers, family members or a new mom who finally got that baby to sleep.
So what causes that pesky tickle and what can you do to get rid of it?
Before we talk about the causes of that irritation in the back of your throat and how you can tackle that tickle, it's best to first distinguish between a wet cough and a dry cough.
If your cough is producing an excess amount of mucus or phlegm it is considered a wet cough and the culprit is most likely an infection effecting the lower respiratory tract (lungs, windpipe, bronchi). A dry cough (one that is not producing phlegm) is most likely caused by an irritation of the upper respiratory system (nose, throat, sinuses) and can be triggered by a cold or flu virus or environmental factors such as a dry air, dust or smoke.
It is important to note that each type of cough can be different from person to person and may indicate different underlying causes, so if any cough lasts for longer than a week, consult a physician. For example, a dry hacking/unproductive cough could indicate an early sign of an infection of the lower respiratory tract like bronchitis or pneumonia or a prolonged dry cough that you think may be caused by cold, dry air could actually be asthma or more serious respiratory issue.
One of the best ways to remedy that tickle in your throat is to combat the coughing reflex. The best way to do this is by keeping your throat moist, especially if the cause of your tickle is environmental (dust, dry air, cigarette smoke or pollution). Hot liquids and foods that coat the throat like honey are the best remedy for this - especially at night! We recommend sipping a cup of hot water with a tablespoon of honey and a slice of lemon right before bed if your find your tickle is worse only occurs at night.
If a cold or flu virus is causing your tickle, an over the counter or doctor prescribed cough suppressant could also be an alternative. It is important to note that suppressants are not used to treat a wet cough and you should always ask your doctor before taking any medication.
If your cough is caused by postnasal drip, an antihistamine may help by drying up the excess mucus dripping down into the back of your throat.
A tickle from postnasal drip can be the result of several issues including: chronic sinusitis, a sinus infection, allergies, deviated septum, cold or flu, GERD, pregnancy, nasal obstruction or exposure to irritating chemicals in cleaning products, pollution or even perfumes.1
If you live in a dry climate - especially in the heart of winter - dry air can be one of the leading causes of unproductive tickly coughs. The best way to treat your cough in these harsh conditions is to do your best to alter the conditions inside your home - especially the bedroom. Running a cool mist humidifier will add moisture to the air and help relieve irritation and suppress the cough. In fact, if you or your child are having trouble sleeping due to a dry nighttime cough during the winter months, opening a window or going outside to breath in cold air can help suppress it.
On the contrary, if your cough has phlegm and comes from the lungs, steaming is the way to go. Simply run a hot shower, shut the door and sit inside the bathroom while breathing in the warm, soothing steam.
Stay Ahead Of It
One of the worst parts of having a tickly cough is that it seems to never go away. In fact, we were inspired to write this post after two solid weeks of battling the tickle at night.
Our best advice is to stay on top of it! Don't wait until the tickle attacks to treat it - get a head start and ward off the tickle before it even starts.
You can do this by keeping your throat moist and keeping inflammation under control. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and soothing warm liquids throughout the day and keep a stash of hard candies on you to keep that throat moist and saliva active (avoid harsh lozenges if you can, however if you do want to use them, do not exceed the recommended dosage).
The BIG TIP
If you are a busy professional who doesn't want to irritate the rest of the office or have a tickly cough hinder a performance, presentation or your day-to-day, keep a supply of honey and lemon slices in the office and drink the hot water + lemon + honey concoction throughout the day. Being prepared with these ingredients will help you resist the urge to drink a million cups of hot coffee to keep your throat soothed, which will only come back to haunt you at night when you're not only dehydrated but that caffeine is keeping you awake to make that tickly cough even more annoying.
Good luck with those tickles!
For more information on treating your cough or any ENT health issues, consult your local ENT expert. For residents of Colorado, contact the Colorado Voice Clinic at 303-844-3000.