April 16, 2024

Athens News

News in English from Greece

What happens when our throat “tickles”

The “tickling” sensation in the throat is not alarming or dangerous, but when it continues, it becomes irritating.

GP Dr Simon Hodes explains the most common causes of this strange sensation and what you can do to stop the tickling.

What Causes a Tickling Throat?

This is usually a sign of irritation in the upper respiratory tract (nose, mouth and throat). Irritation can be caused by many different factors, from allergies and chemicals to illness such as a cold.

This can also be a symptom of acid reflux. But in rare cases, persistent throat irritation (for more than 1 month) may be a sign of a serious illness, such as cancer.

Sometimes a tickling throat will also cause a dry cough, but not always. The main causes of tickling or itching in the throat are as follows.

Acid reflux

Acid reflux is when acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus. “Many people are surprised to learn that acid reflux can cause a tickle in the throat and a cough. Some experience a cough without feeling the acid. This is called ‘silent reflux,'” says Dr. Hodes. You may have acid reflux if you notice a tickling sensation in your throat:

  • after eating fatty or acidic foods, which are more likely to cause reflux
  • when bending over or lying down, which may allow the acid to rise up more easily
  • if you have other symptoms of acid reflux, such as a burning sensation in your chest, nausea, or a sour taste in your mouth.


If you have seasonal allergies or have been exposed to a substance to which you are allergic (allergen), you will usually experience an itchy or irritated throat. Allergies are a possible cause of a tickling throat:

  • after dusting, walking in nature, mowing the lawn, or other activities that expose you to allergens.
  • in certain places, such as in a house where pets live
  • only at certain times of the year, such as spring or autumn.
  • there is an itching or runny nose, but otherwise you feel fine.


An asthma attack can begin with an itchy throat and cough, and progress to difficulty breathing. “If you suffer from asthma, it’s important to know your triggers so you can avoid them. A mild asthma attack may only cause an itchy throat, but if left untreated it can become severe within minutes,” Dr Hodes advises. Common asthma triggers include:

  • Allergens – dust, pet dander, pollen and mold.
  • cold air
  • physical exercise
  • refusal to take preventive medications and inhalers for asthma
  • infections such as colds and flu
  • irritants and chemicals – cleaning products, perfumes, air pollution and cigarette smoke
  • stress or strong emotions
  • dehydration.

When you don’t drink enough fluids, your throat becomes dry. Even mild dehydration can cause an irritated and itchy throat, which can also cause a dry cough.

Dry indoor air

Even if you don’t have allergies or asthma, cold or dry air can irritate your nose and throat. “Many people notice a persistent tickling sensation, often accompanied by a dry cough, if the air in their home or workplace is dry. If you notice a tickling in your throat whenever you are in a heated room or when you change your environment, you may be sensitive to poor air quality ” says Dr Hodes.


A tickling throat and cough due to a viral infection are normal. Colds, COVID-19 and other illnesses can cause posterior nasal drip (mucus from the nose that drains down the back of the throat). This irritates the throat and can cause a tickling and even sore throat.


Chemicals can irritate the airways, causing itching and coughing. Typically, irritation goes away within 1-2 hours after you remove yourself from the irritant’s area.

If you experience a tickle in your throat when using certain cleaning products or fragrances, avoid them. You may need to switch to fragrance-free products and avoid strong chemicals that cause fumes such as bleach and ammonia.

“Avoid smoke from cigarettes, cigars and vaping devices, which contain hundreds of chemicals. And if you use paint or other building materials, try to wear a respirator, open windows and keep the area well ventilated,” Dr. Hodes said.

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