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What Causes Throat Congestion?

By Patti Kate
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are several factors that might contribute to throat congestion, including seasonal allergies, chronic bronchitis, and upper respiratory infections. Asthma, an illness known to constrict the upper airways, can also cause symptoms of congestion. Post nasal drip due to sinusitis can lead to congestion in many cases. Acid reflux disease can cause backup of acid to settle in the throat, leading to congestion. Although not as common, throat cancer may cause congestion of the throat as well.

When an individual suffers from season allergies, such as hay fever, accompanying symptoms often include excess mucus accumulation, which can cause throat congestion. What is known as post nasal drip can occur when the sinuses drain. Often when the individual is lying down or sleeping, the mucus, or phlegm, will drip and cause irritation of the throat.

The same symptoms may occur when a person develops a common cold or other upper respiratory infection. A viral infection is a common culprit. A bacterial infection, such as strep throat can also cause congestion in many individuals. Other infections — both viral and bacterial — may lead to a feeling of congestion in the throat, including acute bronchitis. Tonsillitis, which is an inflammation of the tonsils, can cause intense sore throat along with congestion.

Asthma is a condition that causes a narrowing of the bronchial tubes and airways. During an asthma attack, the patient may experience congestion in the chest and throat. This may occur due to intense coughing, particularly of excessive mucus that may then settle in the throat. In fact, coughing itself can be a common factor in the cause of congestion of the throat.

Pneumonia can cause chest and throat congestion. This is a serious disease that affects the lungs. Accumulating fluids may build up, and in an effort to expel the contaminants, the patient may cough up thick phlegm that can lead to congestion of the throat. Caused by a viral or bacterial infection, pneumonia can lead to life-threatening complications if not treated early.

In rare cases, a tight or congested feeling in the throat may be due to heart disease or congestive heart failure. Pulmonary disease may also be a cause of congestion. Proper diagnosis is crucial in determining the cause of symptoms, especially if heart problems are suspected.

Professional singers can develop throat congestion due to acid build up that settles into the esophagus. Public speakers may experience chest congestion occasionally as well. Another condition known as hiatal hernia, which singers and other individuals develop, can cause congestion in the lining of the throat, as well as other symptoms such as heartburn and pressure.

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Discussion Comments
By fBoyle — On Sep 30, 2013

@SarahGen-- It can happen if you have post nasal drip. Sinus infections cause congestion and fluid buildup in the sinuses. Sometimes, the fluid can drain from the sinuses to the back of the throat and cause congestion and irritation in the throat.

It happened to me several times and it's very annoying. But taking a decongestant medication helps.

By SarahGen — On Sep 29, 2013

How does a sinus infection cause a congested throat? I thought that sinus infections just cause congestion in the sinuses. At least that's the case with me.

By ZipLine — On Sep 28, 2013

I have throat congestion because of an upper respiratory infection. My doctor said that it's a bacterial infection and gave me antibiotics. But I'm also taking an over the counter medication for congestion.

Phlegm basically keeps accumulating in the back of my throat. Sometimes I have to spit it out. I'm sipping on hot herbal tea with honey throughout the day. Hot tea is a great throat congestion remedy.

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