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What are Common Causes of an Itchy Throat and Cough?

Jessica Ellis
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An itchy throat and cough can be an annoying combination of symptoms with a wide variety of causes. Often referred to as a dry cough, this unpleasant condition can be a significant symptom of an infection or allergic reaction. If these symptoms appear without any additional problems, they may clear up with home treatment or rest. A persistent itchy cough and throat can sometimes be a symptom of a more serious condition that requires medical care.

One of the most common causes of these symptoms is allergies. Polluted air, inhaling dust or pollen, or even a food allergy can allow throat tissue to swell and become inflamed, resulting in a dry cough. Other symptoms accompanying these allergy symptoms may include a runny nose, eyes watering, and sneezing. Allergies are often successfully treated with over the counter anti-histamine drugs, but some severe cases may require prescription medication. Generally avoiding the source of the allergy is the best way to prevent a recurrence of symptoms.

People with serious food allergies need to be aware of the appearance of an itchy throat and cough. Since allergic reactions to food can constrict airways and even result in fatalities, it is important to pay close attention to these symptoms. Be especially careful when eating new foods that may not show evidence of allergens, such as nuts.

An itchy cough and throat may be the first sign of a cold or upper respiratory infection. When the body is attacked by a virus or bacteria, it throws in motion a variety of defenses that help defeat the illness, but result in common cold symptoms. Symptoms of a cold can often be treated with cold medicine, but many colds are viral in nature and cannot be treated with antibiotics. If heavy phlegm production occurs, or symptoms last for more than a week, consider consulting a doctor for further diagnosis.

Some smokers experience an itchy throat and cough caused by the inflammation of throat and lung tissue. This is a condition that can easily progress into more serious problems, such as cardiopulmonary disease, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis. If a chronic cough develops, it may be critically important to quit smoking at once and consult a doctor to see if permanent damage has occurred.

In rare cases, a persistent itchy throat and cough can be a sign of a serious disease such as tuberculosis. A bacterial infection, this condition was once a certain death sentence that can now often be treated with antibiotics. An easily misunderstood disease, tuberculosis can be both an active infection and a chronic, progressive condition. If these symptoms occur after known or suspected exposure to tuberculosis, seek medical attention immediately.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis , Writer
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for The Health Board. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

Discussion Comments

By anon987344 — On Feb 02, 2015

A certain common anti-hypertension drug can cause an itchy throat: Lisinopril.

By jackie23his — On Dec 10, 2013

I am not a smoker, but I find my environment is the cause of my ongoing throat problems now. The building has a heating system that no one can control, so at night it is blaring hot and my humidifier is on 24/7, but the humidity in turn causes my place to be like a sauna. Unbearable.

Then because of this, I feel I need some ventilation because the air is unbreathable so I open the windows a bit and the cold air brings more dry air. The humidifiers read always 26 with the cold air coming in, so I am basically not helping myself any other way.

The building is 100 years old and the walls are made of dry wall so the air is not circulating as well, plus I suffer from asthma. Should I move at this point or is there any last advice I can get? For a month I have had my sore throat come and go. Mornings are when it returns, always. I also live in a bachelor and I feel i should move into a 1 bedroom so I can get proper ventilation and a balcony if that helps. Please help.

By anon354485 — On Nov 08, 2013

My wife has a dry cough caused by an itchy throat, it has lasted weeks and antibiotics and cold remedies are not working. She is allergic to numerous pollens and previously had to take allergy shots for a few years. What could cause this to cough to last so long. She is a non-smoker.

By serenesurface — On Oct 08, 2013

There seem to be so many possible cause of itchy throat and cough. It's not really possible to figure it out without seeing a doctor.

I thought that I had sore throat from allergies or an infection when I started to cough. I saw my doctor who took a swab sample to test and the results came back with nothing. Then, he asked me if I still smoke. I smoke a lot and this is my problem. I have a dry, itchy throat and a constant cough. I need to quit.

By bear78 — On Oct 08, 2013

@ysmina-- Do you have excessive throat mucus?

If you do, the issue is probably post-nasal drip. This is something that can happen with sinus infections. The mucus from the sinuses basically trickles down to the back of the throat and causes itching and coughing.

Allergies can cause sinus problems as well as post-nasal drip. You need to treat the cause, so see a doctor about your sinus infection if you haven't yet. You might need antibiotics or decongestants.

If the cause is allergies, ask your doctor about allergy medication.

By ysmina — On Oct 07, 2013

Can a sinus infection cause itchy throat and cough?

I have a sinus infection and usually I just experience congestion and headaches. But this time, I also have a tingly, itchy throat and I cough sometimes. I'm wondering if I have something else going on in addition to the sinus infection.

Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis


With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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