Common Causes of a Dry Throat

There are many causes of a dry throat, many of which are common conditions that most of us have experienced at some point in our lives. What we refer to as “dry throat” usually involves some form of irritation, be it itchiness, scratchiness, or even difficulty speaking. The physical cause behind this condition is that the mucus membranes become constricted or fail to release mucus. As nasty as the thought may be, mucus keeps the sensitive tissues in the throat and nose lubricated and supple. Dry throat can develop while playing sports or exercising, after a night’s sleep, or it could even be caused by medication; but there are many other possible culprits behind this condition.

Dry Air

One of the main causes of a dry throat is low moisture in the air. Low moisture, or low humidity, levels in the air can be devastating to the mucus membranes in the body because it dries out the sinuses making them less capable of producing and releasing mucus to the surrounding tissues. The sinus areas and the throat can easily become irritated if they have too little mucus, which works as a lubricating barrier against irritating conditions and objects which leads to dryness in the throat, mouth, and even the eyes. In addition to dryness of these usually-moist membranes, an individual’s skin will also bear the effects of low humidity by becoming dry, itchy, and possibly riddled with red patches where the skin has become excessively dry.

Most of us have experienced this kind of throat irritation, and it most often occurs in seasons where the weather has become cold and dry. In addition to naturally-low moisture during this kind of weather, the heating that most of us use in our homes also reduces the humidity inside the home to the point that the air becomes physically uncomfortable. In order to remedy this, one must reintroduce moisture back into the air. An effective way to do this is to use an electric humidifier or, if a wood stove is used for heating, a pan of water can be placed on top of the stove where it will evaporate into the air.


Dehydration is another of the major causes of a dry throat. Have you ever got caught up in a workout, sports game, or even been so sick that you simply forgot to top up your body’s water levels? This happens a lot and, in most cases, by the time you finally realize that you are thirsty your body has already started suffering from the early symptoms of dehydration. Dryness of the mouth and throat, sticky or stringy saliva, and a headache are usually the first symptoms to be recognized. You may even feel yourself salivating at the thought of a cold glass of water. If dehydration is allowed to progress then the following symptoms could show up: extreme thirst, constipation, dizziness, low output when urinating or urinating less frequently, low energy, and the inability to produce tears.

Mild dehydration can usually be treated by drinking water or a sports drink like Gatorade. More severe cases of dehydration usually require the need to replenish one’s electrolytes. Most doctors can administer an electrolyte drink that will quickly work to replace the body’s moisture and essential mineral levels; however an individual with a life-threatening case of dehydration or who is at high risk for complications may have to receive the electrolyte mixture via intravenous. Dehydration can be avoided by drinking at least eight glasses of water each day and even more on days when one’s physical activity is greater than normal.

Breathing Habits

Believe it or not, the way that you breathe may just be the key to relieving the symptoms of a dry throat. Breathing habits should definitely be considered as one of the top causes of a dry throat because it really is a common culprit behind a dry, irritated throat, mouth, and nose. Have you ever found yourself waking up to find that your mouth is wide open and dry as a bone? After smacking your lips a few times, you might be able to muster up some stringy, thick saliva; a few sniffs through your nose may also prove to irritate your throat. These are classic symptoms that are caused by breathing through your mouth for too long. From a biological point of view, the main point in which air is supposed to travel into the body is the nose; there are plenty of hairs lining the nasal passages to collect debris and bacteria and there are a lot more mucus membranes in the sinus cavity that can prevent the air from drying out and irritating the throat.

If you suffer from a dry throat on a regular basis then you may even be breathing through your mouth during the daytime but are simply unaware of it. To remedy this condition, try to become more aware of how you breathe and force yourself to breathe through your nose. Sometimes “mouth-breathing” can occur when a cold or flu is coming on, which causes the nose to become so runny or blocked that your body naturally switches to breathing through the mouth. Vapor rub or eucalyptus cream can be a huge help in unblocking the nose and allowing the body to breathe normally again.