Read below about tickle in throat, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your tickle in throat from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

This symptom can also be referred to as:
Itchy throat

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having tickle in throat

Take Quiz

Tickle in Throat Symptoms

Approximately 1% of the population reports a tickling or dripping sensation in the back of the throat which persists in spite of repeated attempts to clear it. The sensation is often accompanied by a persistent dry cough. This sensation is known as postnasal drip syndrome and is caused by inflammation the upper respiratory tract. [2,6]

Many conditions can cause upper respiratory tract inflammation, with some of the most common being infections, allergies, or environmental irritants. [6] Postnasal drip syndrome can typically be managed with over the counter medications and will resolve on its own. However, airway irritation or cough that persists for more than 8 weeks should be evaluated by a medical doctor to rule out more serious chronic conditions like obstructive airway disease, chronic infection, or gastrointestinal reflux disease. [6]

Associated tickle in throat symptoms include:

Tickle in Throat Causes Overview

A tickling sensation in the back of the throat is due to irritation in the upper airway. [1] This is commonly due to infection or inflammation in the upper respiratory tract. Infections can cause the irritating sensation, and the sensation can persist for weeks following resolution of the infection. [1] Inflammation due to environmental factors like dust or pollen or due to medications is another common cause of upper airway irritation. [2] Some chronic medical conditions can also cause upper airway irritation and tickle in throat symptoms. [3]

Infections:

  • Upper respiratory tract: Tickle in the throat, sore throat, and cough are all symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection, common in the winter months and typically caused by viruses. [4]
  • Sinus: Viral or bacterial infections in the sinuses can cause a post-nasal drip leading to a tickle in the back of the throat, dripping sensation, or cough. [2,3]
  • Post-infectious: Postnasal drip is common following a respiratory illness and can cause a tickling or dripping sensation in the back for the throat that persists for weeks after resolution of other symptoms. [5]

Inflammatory:

  • Environmental: Irritants in the air like smoke, chemicals, pet hair, pollen, or dust can cause irritation in the upper airway, resulting in airway irritation and tickle in throat symptoms. [3]
  • Medications: Some medications cause airway irritation, particularly angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors like lisinopril. [3]

Other chronic conditions:

  • Obstructive airway disease: We typically think of wheezing to be a symptom of obstruction to flow in the airway, but chronic cough and irritation in the throat can be symptoms as well. [2]
  • Acid reflux: Acid reflux is a very common condition, but many people don't realize that in addition to typical reflux symptoms, acid can irritate the upper airway and cause a cough or tickling sensation. [2]

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Tickle in Throat

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced tickle in throat. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Anaphylaxis

    Anaphylaxis is the sudden onset of breathing or heart rate changes that are caused by a whole-body allergic reaction. This can be a deadly situation.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea or vomiting, headache, stomach bloating, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), being severely ill
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service
  2. 2.Chronic Allergies

    Allergies are an overreaction by the immune system to something that does not bother most other people. Many people who have allergies are sensitive to pollen, but other things such as dust mites, animal dander, cockroaches, and mold can also cause a reaction.

    Seasonal

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, irritability, trouble sleeping, runny nose, congestion
    Symptoms that never occur with chronic allergies:
    fever, yellow-green runny nose, chills, muscle aches
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Post - Infectious Cough

    Post-infectious upper airway cough is a condition that can develop as a direct result of a previous infection of the airways. In adults, this is the most common cause of chronic (persistent) cough.

    2 weeks with treatment.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    cough, congestion, clear runny nose, mucous dripping in the back of the throat, hoarse voice
    Symptoms that always occur with post-infectious cough:
    cough
    Symptoms that never occur with post-infectious cough:
    fever
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit

    Tickle in Throat Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having tickle in throat.

    Take Quiz
  4. 4.Non - Allergic Rhinitis

    Nonallergic rhinitis is a medical condition which involves chronic (persistent) sneezing and having a runny, congested nose without any apparent cause. While the symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis are similar to those of allergic rhinitis (hay fever), there is no allergic reaction. Nonallergic rhinitis can be triggered by certain odors, weather changes, medications, or foods.

    Long-term condition but may go away without treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    congestion, mucous dripping in the back of the throat, runny nose, frequent sneezing, eye itch
    Symptoms that never occur with non-allergic rhinitis:
    fever, sinus pain, facial fullness or pressure
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  5. 5.New - Onset Seasonal Allergies

    Allergic rhinitis, is an overreaction by the immune system to allergens in the air. While pollen often causes allergies, other culprits include dust, animal dander, and mold.

    Allergies are often seasonal.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    sore throat, congestion, cough with dry or watery sputum, mucous dripping in the back of the throat, fatigue
    Symptoms that never occur with new-onset seasonal allergies:
    fever, yellow-green runny nose, chills, muscle aches
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  6. 6.Allergic Reaction (Not Life - Threatening)

    When the body encounters a harmful substance, it responds with inflammation and swelling that can be protective. In many individuals, the body responds this way to substances that are not normally harmful, like foods or pollen. This is the basis of allergy, or Type 1 Hypersensitivity.

    Symptoms should resolve in a matter of hours.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    swollen face, swollen lips, lip numbness, hives, red swollen bumps or patches with a pale center, lip redness
    Symptoms that never occur with allergic reaction (not life-threatening):
    shortness of breath, throat itching
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Tickle in Throat Treatments and Relief

Many causes of upper airway irritation can be managed at home with lifestyle modification and over the counter medication. [3] Some infectious causes of upper airway irritation require evaluation by a doctor. Additionally, some chronic conditions that cause upper airway inflammation require evaluation and treatment by a doctor. In general, if you have upper airway irritation or cough that persists for more than 8 weeks, seek medical treatment. [3]

Seek emergency treatment if:

  • You have a persistent or high fever. [8]
  • You have difficulty breathing. [8]

Home tickle in throat treatments include:

  • Avoiding triggers: If the tickling sensation is due to environmental factors such as dust, pollen, or pets, avoiding the triggering factor may help relieve symptoms. [3]
  • Lifestyle modification: If the tickling sensation is due to reflux, lifestyle modification such as weight loss, smoking cessation, avoiding fatty or acidic foods, and avoiding meals 2-3 hours prior to bedtime may help relieve tickle in throat symptoms. [5,8]
  • Allergy medication: Antihistamines or antihistamine/decongestant combinations like Allegra, Claritin, or Zyrtec are the first line treatment for many causes of post-nasal drip. [6]
  • Cough suppressant: Dextromethorphan (Robitussin) is an over the counter cough suppressant that can help with symptom management, particularly for coughing at night. [9]

Medical professional tickle in throat treatments include:

  • Imaging: A doctor may order a chest x-ray to assess for possible causes of airway irritation. [5]
  • Intranasal steroids: If the tickling sensation is due to allergic causes, a doctor may recommend an intranasal steroid spray like fluticasone (Flonase). [3]
  • Inhalers: If the irritation is due to airway obstruction, a doctor may prescribe an inhaled corticosteroid as treatment. [6]
  • Antibiotics: If the irritation is being caused by an acute or chronic bacterial infection in the sinuses or airway, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics. [3]
  • Acid Suppressants: If the irritation is being caused by acid reflux, a doctor may prescribe acid suppressant medication to improve symptoms. [10]
  • Medication change: If the airway irritation is due to side effect from a medication, a doctor may change the prescription. Do not change or stop your medication without consulting a doctor first. [6]

FAQs About Tickle in Throat

Here are some frequently asked questions about tickle in throat.

Why do I always have a tickle in my throat at night?

A tickle in the throat is due to irritation in the upper airway, and can be caused by multiple different infectious or inflammatory conditions. This irritation, often referred to as "post-nasal drip" is most commonly due to an upper airway infection, and can persist for weeks following resolution of other symptoms. [6]

What causes a tickle in your throat that makes you cough?

Irritation to the upper airway due to infectious, allergic, or environmental factors cause a tickling or dripping sensation in the back of the throat leading to cough. Some of the most common causes of upper airway irritation are viral infections, allergies, or environmental irritants. Some chronic conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or chronic obstructive airway disease (COPD) can also cause irritation in the upper airway. [6]

What causes a persistent dry tickly cough?

Irritation to the upper airway due to infectious, allergic, or environmental factors cause a ticking or dripping sensation in the back of the throat leading to cough. Some of the most common causes of persistent dry cough are viral infections, allergies, or environmental irritants such as smoking or pollen. Some chronic conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or chronic obstructive airway disease (COPD) can also cause irritation lead to persistent dry cough. [6]

Why won't the tickle in my throat go away?

Irritation to the upper airway due to infection can persist for up to 8 weeks following the resolution of other symptoms. [2] Irritation to the airway may also be due to allergies or environmental irritants, in which case symptoms may persist until the allergen is avoided. Additionally, the irritation may be due to a chronic condition like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or chronic obstructive airway disease (COPD) and require diagnosis and treatment by a doctor. [6]

How long does it take for a tickly cough to go away?

Typically, airway irritation due to viral illness will resolve within 8 weeks. [2] Often, cough persists well after the infection is cleared due to persistent irritation in the airway. The persistence of cough does not necessarily mean that the infection is still present. However if the cough is due to a chronic condition or allergy, it may persist until the allergen is removed or the underlying condition is treated. [2,4]

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Tickle in Throat

  • Q.Do you have a runny nose?
  • Q.Are you experiencing chills?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Do your symptoms seem to have started or worsened after exposure to dust mite? (dust mite is commonly found in carpets, bedding, pillows and blankets)

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our tickle in throat symptom checker to find out more.

Take Quiz

Tickle in Throat Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced tickle in throat have also experienced:

    • 11% Cough
    • 9% Dry Cough
    • 7% Congestion
  • People who have experienced tickle in throat were most often matched with:

    • 70% Anaphylaxis
    • 20% Post - Infectious Cough
    • 10% Chronic Allergies
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having tickle in throat

Take Quiz

References

  1. Ryan NM, Gibson PG, Birring SS. Arnold's Nerve Cough Reflex: Evidence for Chronic Cough as a Sensory Vagal Neuropathy. Journal of Thoracic Disease. 2014;6(Suppl 7):S748-5752. NCBI Link.
  2. Chung KF. Approach to Chronic Cough: The Neuropathic Basis for Cough Hypersensitivity Syndrome. Journal of Thoracic Disease. 2014;6(Suppl 7):S699-S707. NCBI Link.
  3. Bishop S. Cough That Lasts May Be Sign of Underlying Problem. Mayo Clinic. Published April 6, 2012. Mayo Clinic Link.
  4. Upper Respiratory Infection (URI or Common Cold). Stanford Children's Health. Stanford Children's Health Link.
  5. Sandhu GS, Kuchai R. The Larynx in Cough. Cough. 2013;9(1):16. NCBI Link.
  6. Walling AD. The Top Three Causes of Chronic Cough. American Family Physician. 2003;67(1):169-174. AAFP Link.
  7. Bishop S. Postnasal Drip Not Usually Related to Bad Breath. Mayo Clinic. Published June 1, 2012. Mayo Clinic Link.
  8. Dry Tickly Cough. A. Vogel. A. Vogel Link.
  9. Night Time Cough - Dextromethorphan Hydrobromide, Doxylamine Succinate Liquid. DailyMed. Updated January 15, 2018. DailyMed Link.
  10. Bishop S. Postnasal Drip Not Usually Related to Bad Breath. Mayo Clinic. Published June 1, 2012. Mayo Clinic Link.