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What are the Most Common Causes of a Dry Throat and Coughing?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 17, 2024
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A cold is one of the most common causes of a dry throat and coughing, usually because of nasal congestion that leads to post nasal drip. This will then lead to irritation of the throat, which often feels like a "tickle" in the throat causing a persistent cough for as long as the nasal congestion lasts. Sometimes, dry air, allergies, or simply not staying hydrated enough throughout the day can also cause dry throat and coughing. Productive coughs, which may be caused by a chest cold, are not usually accompanied by a dry throat, and typically occur at the end of a cold when the congestion has moved to the chest.

If the dry throat and coughing is caused by nasal congestion and post nasal drip due to a cold, one of the best ways to treat it is with cold medicine that helps relieve congestion. In addition, be sure to blow the nose rather than sniffling all day, which can make the dry throat and coughing worse, and can also lead to sinus infections which will generally require antibiotics for treatment. As with any cold, it is important to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, which can also help to hydrate the throat. Cough drops may be able to help in a pinch as well.

Dry air in the home or workplace, and especially when sleeping at night, is another one of the most common causes for dry throat and coughing. Air conditioning or forced air heat can both lead to dryness and irritation in the throat. This may be helped by drinking hot herbal tea with lemon and honey, or by sleeping with a humidifier on at night or even throughout the day if necessary to better hydrate the air. Standing over a steaming pot of hot water, or taking a hot shower, may also help to moisten the nose and throat, and relieve coughing.

Seasonal or pet allergies can also lead to a dry throat and coughing. Trying to eliminate the source of the allergies as much as possible, such as installing an air purifier, might be helpful. Allergy medications might be helpful, though some people find that these medications make the throat feel even more dry. Once again, staying hydrated is one of the best ways to prevent coughing accompanied by a scratchy throat, as well as to relieve the pain from a sore throat, and to heal more quickly from a cold.

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Discussion Comments
By anon340302 — On Jul 02, 2013

While I'm breathing, the wind is going directly into my throat so my throat is always so dry. What is the reason?

By anon326950 — On Mar 25, 2013

I have congestion in my throat and when I try to cough it out it gets stuck in my throat. I end up choking on it and gasping for air and it goes back down. It really hurts from trying to cough it out.

By anon315573 — On Jan 24, 2013

I found that just simply opening a window (even in the winter just a little bit) helped any dehydration symptoms I was having, all caused by the indoor heating or a/c systems! That fresh air can do you wonders because when ill we should turn to nature as much as possible!

By StarJo — On Jan 07, 2012

The heated air at work really dries out my sinuses and throat. I started coughing and choking during my first winter of working there, and I asked my boss if I could bring a humidifier to set upon my desk for relief.

She said that the moisture could cause problems for the computer equipment, so I could not. So, I went another route and drank herbal tea and water all day long.

This helped moisturize my throat, and the cough went away. The only downside was having to go to the bathroom frequently. I had rather do that than live with the irritated throat, though.

By OeKc05 — On Jan 07, 2012

I got a persistent dry cough after cleaning out an old shed. I had just moved into a home with a beautiful garden shed out back, but it hadn't been used in years, and its shelves were caked with layers of dust and pollen.

I should have worn a mask while cleaning, and I was upset with myself afterward for not taking this precaution. I started coughing as soon as I stirred up the dust with my dust rag.

Even after I got out of the shed, the cough lingered for a week! It seemed the allergens had penetrated my throat and set up camp there. They really dried my throat out, too.

By shell4life — On Jan 06, 2012

@Oceana – A humidifier helped me get rid of my cough and dry throat. There are different types and various price ranges, but even the cheaper one worked great for me.

A humidifier has a tank that you fill with tap water. You then screw on the lid and put the tank upside down on a base. You plug it into the wall and turn it on, and the base heats up.

The heat produces a steamy vapor that exits the humidifier through a vent. Within half an hour, you will notice a big difference in the moisture content of the air in your room.

All you have to do is empty out whatever water you don't use each morning and air it out. Refill it the next night, and you are good to go.

Since I have started using the humidifier, I have been able to breathe through my nose at night. This keeps my throat moist and eliminates the need to cough.

By Oceana — On Jan 05, 2012

I have had that tickle in my throat before, and it is so annoying! The main thing that makes it so irritating is its persistence. It's so hard to get rid of!

I gargle with warm water, and this helps for awhile. I also keep lozenges in my mouth most of the day, and they keep my throat moist.

I think what causes it is breathing through my mouth while I sleep. My sinuses get so dry in the winter that I can't breathe through them very well, and the dry air of my bedroom sucks the moisture out of my mouth.

I am considering getting a humidifier. How do they work? Are they a lot of trouble to maintain?

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