11 reasons why this happens

A “tick in the throat” is a common way of referring to a scratchy feeling in the back of the throat. It may or may not be accompanied by a dry cough. Common causes of itchy throat include strep throat, laryngitis, COVID-19, dehydration, acid reflux, allergies, asthma, environmental irritants, viral infections, and side effects of certain medications. In rare cases, persistent itchy throat may be a sign of cancer.

In this article, we’ll discuss the different possible causes of a scratchy throat, as well as treatment options, possible complications, and when to see a health care provider.

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Causes of itchy throat

There are many potential causes of a scratchy throat. The following list contains the most common causes, including coughs and no coughs.

No cough

If you have a scratchy throat but don’t have a cough, it could be due to one of the following health conditions:

  • Pharyngitis: Strep throat is an infection caused by group A bacteria Streptococcus bacteria. Symptoms often include fever, sore throat, pain when swallowing, swollen lymph nodes, and enlarged tonsils. Many people with strep throat experience a painful lump in their throat, which may also cause an itchy or scratchy sensation.
  • laryngitis: Laryngitis, usually caused by a viral infection, is inflammation of the larynx or larynx. It can cause hoarseness, scratchy throat, fever, and swollen lymph nodes.
  • Dehydration: Dehydration or severe water loss can make your throat feel irritated, dry, and itchy.
  • Certain cancers: A scratchy throat is unlikely to be a sign of cancer. In rare cases, persistent hoarseness and sore throat may be symptoms of esophageal, laryngeal, or hypopharyngeal cancer.

With cough

A scratchy throat and dry cough can be caused by:

  • Acid reflux: Chronic acid reflux or heartburn, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs when stomach acid and other contents back up from the stomach into the esophagus. This may cause burning and irritation in the back of the throat, coughing, wheezing, and difficulty swallowing.
  • allergy: A scratchy throat is a common symptom of an allergic reaction. Other symptoms include sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, runny nose and wheezing. Common allergens include pet dander, dust, mold and pollen.
  • asthma: Asthma is a long-term disease that causes inflammation of the airways in the lungs. During an asthma attack (worsening of asthma symptoms), you may experience a scratchy throat, cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
  • Coronavirus disease: Some patients with COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 syndrome have reportedly experienced persistent dry cough and scratchy throat, which are the effects of the coronavirus on their organs. It’s unclear why this happens, but research is ongoing.
  • Environmental irritants: Environmental irritants, such as tobacco smoke and pollutants, often cause throat irritation, itchiness, scratchiness, and coughing. Both smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke can have this effect, but regular smokers are especially likely to develop symptoms.
  • ACE inhibitors: Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, often used to lower blood pressure and A dry cough and a scratchy or scratchy throat sometimes occur as side effects of treating heart disease.
  • Infect: Viral infections, such as the common cold and flu, often cause an itchy throat. Related conditions, such as sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses) and bronchitis (inflammation of the upper respiratory tract), may also cause an itchy sensation due to postnasal drip, in which mucus drips from the back of the throat and causes irritation.

How to Treat a Itchy Throat

Depending on the cause, there are many home remedies you can use to relieve your itchy throat. Examples include:

  • Drink lemon tea, ginger tea or honey tea
  • drink plenty of water and other fluids
  • drink hot soup
  • Use a humidifier
  • Suck cough drops
  • Taking decongestants to treat postnasal drip
  • Take a hot bath or breathe hot steam
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Quit the tuxedo
  • Avoid common allergens such as pet dander and pollen

If you have a scratchy throat due to an underlying medical condition, follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for treatment. For example, if you have asthma, take all your medications regularly as prescribed.

Symptoms of persistent itchy throat

The main symptom of a scratchy throat is a scratchy feeling in the back of the throat. It may also feel swollen, irritated, or inflamed. You may cough or clear your throat frequently. Some people feel like something is stuck in their throat and needs to be let out.

Depending on the cause of the itching, you may also experience the following symptoms:

  • dry or dry cough
  • nasal congestion
  • redness and irritation of the eyes
  • sore throat
  • hoarse

Itchy throat while sleeping

A scratchy throat can sometimes disrupt your sleep, whether it’s from allergies, asthma, or postnasal drip. Drinking honey tea before bed and sleeping with your head on the pillow may help relieve symptoms and improve sleep quality.

If you continue to have trouble sleeping because of a scratchy throat or cough, contact your healthcare provider. They may recommend that you have a sleep study to check for any underlying sleep disorders.

Complications and risk factors

A scratchy throat rarely causes serious health problems. If you also have a persistent severe cough, you may be at higher risk for the following complications:

  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Fainting (fainting)
  • Dizziness
  • hernia
  • Difficulty breathing
  • loss of bladder control
  • Rib fractures

Many people experience a scratchy throat from time to time. However, the following risk factors may increase your chances of experiencing this condition (and accompanying cough) long-term:

When to see a health care provider

If your scratchy throat and/or cough persists or worsens for more than a few weeks, consider contacting your healthcare provider.

Go to the emergency room or call 911 if you have a severe allergic reaction or other medical emergency and have signs of a scratchy throat, such as:

  • measles
  • Swelling of the face, throat, eyes, tongue, and/or lips
  • Difficulty breathing
  • hard to swallow

You should also contact your healthcare provider if you have any signs of throat cancer, such as:

  • Hoarseness, sore throat, or voice change for more than two weeks
  • unexplained weight loss
  • Earache
  • pain when swallowing
  • A lump or lump in your neck

Diagnosing an itchy throat

In addition to reviewing your symptoms and medical history and a physical exam, your healthcare provider can diagnose the cause of your itchy throat by performing the following tests:

  • Tests to assess your lung function
  • Chest X-ray
  • Sinus computed tomography (CT)
  • GERD Assessment Test


You may experience a scratchy throat for a number of reasons. If your throat is itchy without a cough, it could be due to strep throat, laryngitis, dehydration, or (rarely) throat cancer. If you have a cough, it could be an itchy throat due to acid reflux, ACE inhibitors, infection, allergies, COVID-19, asthma, or irritants in the environment.

A scratchy throat can often be relieved with home remedies such as honey tea, cough drops, and getting enough rest and fluids. If your symptoms are related to another health condition, such as allergies or asthma, you will need to contact a health care provider to treat the underlying cause.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed research, to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

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Laura Dorwater

Laura Dorwart is a health journalist with a special interest in mental health, pregnancy-related illness and disability rights. She has been featured in VICE, SELF, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Weekly, The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed Reader, Catapult, Pacific Standard, Health.com, Insider, Forbes.com Published in , TalkPoverty and many other outlets.

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