Have you ever had a constant tickle in the throat for, seemingly, no reason? It’s perplexing, isn’t it?
You’re not sick (that you know of, anyway, though there could be an underlying condition). You don’t smoke (and if you do, well, there’s your answer, so you should quit), and are generally healthy. So why the tickle?
We could jump to what everyone’s thinking, throat cancer, but that’s a pretty big leap to make from the likely reality.
Throat cancer is a big deal, no doubt, but there other symptoms must be present before arriving at that conclusion. Chances are it’s more likely to be asthma, hay fever, the start of a cold, weak lungs, or a mild environmental irritation that’s causing your cough and constant tickle in the throat.
Signs of a Tickle in the Throat
A tickle in the throat can feel itchy and there is often a dry, unproductive cough that comes and goes. (An unproductive cough is one that doesn’t have mucus.) Sometimes the cough is directly associated with the tickle, and other times it’s simply a byproduct of it. The body produces a cough as a reaction; it’s an automatic response to an irritation in the throat.
If a constant tickle in the throat also has mucus, it’s usually because of a cold or the flu. Viruses enter our bodies mainly through our hands, typically after direct contact with an infected person, or after touching something they’ve touched and not washing our hands. Then we touch our eyes or our mouths, which allows germs to settle in our chests and throats, and an infection starts, causing irritation.
Some symptoms are:
- A constant tickle in your throat when lying down;
- The back of your throat feels itchy;
- A dry, unproductive cough;
- A constant tickle in your throat at night (1);
- Your ear feels itchy (some believe scratching the inside of your ear can help alleviate the tickle).
7 Possible Reasons for a Constant Tickle in the Throat
A throat tickle can be really distracting and annoying because it often lingers, stubbornly, despite our best efforts in alleviating it. There are a number of reasons why a throat tickle might be triggered:
This is when there is inflammation of the pharynx. It can cause irritation, a cough, and a tickle. Most often, it’s referred to as a sore throat, and is caused by a bacterial or viral infection.
This is an inflammation of the larynx, or the voice box. It can be caused by a cold, an upper respiratory infection, smoking, pollution, or even just shouting or talking too much.
3. Cold or Flu
Being sick with the flu or a cold will produce upper respiratory symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, and post-nasal drip. All of these can cause a tickle in the throat.
A ticklish throat is a common symptom among those with allergies, whether the allergy is due to, for example, an environmental factor (e.g., hay fever) or food. The solution? Remove yourself from the environment or stop eating the offending food causing the itchy throat. If you’re having an extreme allergic reaction—anaphylaxis—seek medical attention immediately.
5. Smoking and Secondhand Smoke
Smoking and secondhand smoke are irritants; it’s a form of pollution. Remove yourself from the environment and get some fresh air. The tickle should resolve once the smoke has cleared or you have found cleaner air.
6. Air Conditioning or Heating
Keeping our homes warm in winter and cool in the summer can take a toll on our bodies, because dry air is being created, which can cause problems such as dry nasal passages and throats. This can, in turn, trigger a constant tickle in throat causing coughing. Only put the air conditioning on when it’s really hot and unbearable, and keep the heat to a minimum in winter. You can also run a humidifier to replace the moisture in the air.
7. Yelling, Screaming, and Excessive Talking
Sometimes we have to talk all day, or we are shouting a lot for whatever reason. This can affect our voice boxes and cause a constant throat tickle. Try not talking for a while, or whisper instead, and soothe the tickle and irritation with some ginger or lemon tea.
Throat Cancer Symptoms
Is a constant tickle in the throat cancer? While this isn’t a defining symptom, if you’re concerned and have a number of other symptoms, then please see your doctor and discuss your concerns with them. These other symptoms include:
- Voice changes;
- Trouble swallowing;
- Weight loss;
- Sore throat;
- Constant need to clear your throat;
- Persistent cough, sometimes with blood (2);
- Swollen lymph nodes;
- Ear pain; and
- Hoarse voice.
Natural Ways to Soothe a Throat Tickle
There are a few ways to ease a constant tickle in the throat and the dry cough that might accompany it. Try the following natural remedies for relief.
1. Drink Hot Water, Lemon Juice, and Honey
The honey and hot water will soothe the tickle and the lemon will fight off any potential infections that might be cropping up. Drink a few times throughout the day, particularly when aggravated.
2. Make Ginger Tea
Ginger is an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial spice so adding it to your health regimen every day may help clear up the tickle. You can make a fresh ginger tea by grating the rhizome into a cup, adding hot water and honey, and letting it steep for 15 minutes. Drink this a few times a day.
3. Have Some Manuka Honey
Manuka honey is dark in color and bold on flavor, and it’s been used for centuries as a healing aid because of its antibacterial properties. Slowly eat a tablespoon of the honey once or twice a day, letting it coat the back of your throat.
4. Gargle with Salt Water
Take a cup of warm water and add two tablespoons of sea salt. Mix until the grains have disappeared. Gargle for one minute then spit it out. Do not rinse with clear water.
5. Use Throat Lozenges
There are natural throat lozenges, many made with honey, which you can buy and use throughout the day to help ease a constant throat tickle.
When to See the Doctor
For the most part, this throat irritation and the cough that often follows it should clear up in a reasonable amount of time once you have determined the likely cause. But if you have ruled out all likely possible causes and still have a constant tickle in your throat, then it’s time to see a health professional to get to the bottom of the issue. Please see a doctor for the following reasons as well:
- A postnasal drip that is thick, colored, and has been around for more than a week;
- A persistent fever;
- Facial pain that doesn’t go away;
- A productive cough with mucus;
- A sore throat;
- A need to clear your throat a lot; and
- Hoarseness associated with throat scratchiness.
Lastly, if you have difficulty breathing or swallowing, please seek medical help immediately.