Sore throat

Updated 15 August 2016

Why you can’t stop clearing your throat

Constantly clearing your throat could just be a bad habit, or it could be a symptom of something more serious. It could also really irritate those around you.

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There’s a lot that happens in your throat – we eat, drink and breathe through it. Food and drink needs to go down the gullet and air down the oesophagus.  When things go wrong here, they can have deadly consequences.

This is why your throat is so sensitive to anything potentially blocking it – and it quickly sets a reflex of coughing or throat clearing into motion, according to the National Health System.

Causes of constant throat-clearing

There are many different reasons why people feel the need to clear their throat constantly.  A build-up of mucus at the back of the throat causing a constant tickle can have many causes, says the Clarity Allergy Center in Chicago:

· Asthma

· Hay fever or allergies

· A post-nasal drip

· Anatomical factors of the throat, uvula or tonsils

· Chronic sinusitis

· A chronic cough

· Acid reflux

· A side effect from certain blood pressure medications

Poor air quality, smoking, anxiety and stress, a dry throat, voice strain and viral infections are added to this list by the National Health System.

Read: What's causing those white spots in your mouth and throat?

When the protective reflex of the throat becomes overstimulated, the throat clearing system goes into overdrive, and this can create some problems of its own.

Is throat-clearing dangerous?

“Some slight damage can be done by the friction between the left and right vocal cords, which can lead to the formation of nodules on the vocal cords, and this can lead to a change in way the voice sounds” says Professor James Loock from the Division of Otorhinolaryngology at the University of Stellenbosch.

He adds that it is very important to find out what the exact cause of the constant throat clearing might be, and then to address that cause. But the chances of severe damage are small, and this cannot lead to any serious medical conditions.

He does add humorously, however, that the constant irritation it might cause could lead to divorce.

The more you clear your throat, the more you need to do it, says the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio. This can turn into a habit that could be difficult to break.

How would one treat this?

Treatment would consist of finding the underlying cause of the excess mucus in your throat, so a visit to the GP would be a good starting point. You could need a change of diet if you have acid reflux, or asthma medication, or treatment for allergies or sinusitis.

It is important to always stay well hydrated, as a dry throat is enough to set off a bout of throat clearing in anyone.

Read more:

Stop your sore throat quickly

How to treat your sore throat

5 signs your sore throat could be more serious than you thought