Dry throat is an uncomfortable feeling of dryness or roughness in the throat. It can happen at any age group, and it is more common in periods of low humidity such as harmattan.
Although dry throat frequently occurs as a standalone symptom, it may also be associated with a sore throat, headache, fever, or cough.
What Causes Dry Throat?
Dry throat has numerous causes, however, during seasons like harmattan, it is caused by either of the following:
Dehydration is one of the commonest causes of dry throat during harmattan. The body’s fluid requirement increases during the season, so when water intake is not increased, dehydration can easily set in.
The salivary glands in the mouth normally produce saliva which naturally lubricate the mouth and throat. These salivary glands are highly dependent on water to function. Therefore, when adequate amount of water is not taken to compensate for the increased demand in dry weather conditions, there is a reduction in the amount of lubricating saliva produced. This leads to dry throat.
The seasonal dry air of harmattan not only dries out the skin, but it can also dry the airway. When dry air is inhaled during respiration, it passes through the nostrils into the upper respiratory tract before reaching the lungs. The low humidity in the air can dehydrate the normally moist mucous lining of the airway and cause dryness.
The harmattan period is marked with an increase in the occurrence of allergies. The immune system can get hyperactive and begin to react excessively to regular home irritants like dust and pollen from plants.
During such allergic reactions, a substance called histamine is released in the body, causing dry throat and other symptoms like itchy swollen red eyes and stuffed nose.
Everyone is already at an increased risk of dry throat during harmattan, but mouth breathers are at even greater risk.
Some people breathe through their mouths especially when asleep. In other weather conditions, they may get away with it. But during extreme dry seasons like harmattan, such individuals will often complain of experiencing dry throat, typically after waking up in the morning. This is because by mouth breathing, such individuals let in a very high amount of dry air into their airway; more air than would have passed through the nostrils at rest. The high influx of dry air would dry out the airway easily.
As the name implies, common cold is a common condition, especially during seasons like harmattan.
Common cold refers to a group of respiratory tract infections that are caused by different viruses. They cause symptoms like cough, fever and nasal congestion which leads to mouth breathing and dry throat.
Common colds are usually self-limiting, meaning that they go away on their own. Taking antibiotics will not cure common cold.
Home Remedies for Dry Throat
Depending on the cause, the approach to treating dry throat is different. However, the general principles include:
1. Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and promote saliva production. Sucking on ice cubes or chewing sugarless gum can also stimulate saliva production.
2. Reduce low humidity indoors by using a humidifier in your home. If a humidifier is not available, try steam. You may stay in the bathroom and put on the shower to inhale steam. You can also try direct steam inhalation by doing this:
- Boil clean water and pour into a wide bowl.
- Sit comfortably and place your face over the steaming water. Be careful not to contact the hot water directly.
- Put a clean towel over your head to trap the steam.
- Stay and breathe in the steam for about 10 minutes.
Caution- Be careful while handling hot water to avoid burns.
Steam can soften dry mucous membranes and unclog congested nose. Steam also helps to moisten the airway to combat dryness.
3. Lozenges can help to soothe dry throat.
4. Try antihistamines if your dry throat is caused by allergies.
5. Seek help for mouth breathing. There are portable devices that can help align the jaw properly and prevent open mouth breathing during sleep.
6. Take plenty of fruits and vegetables to boost your immunity and protect yourself from common cold.
7. Try nasal decongestants to relieve stuffed nose.
A word from Healthfacts
Dry throat is one of the health downsides of harmattan, but it can easily be managed at home. If dry throat persists for more than 2 weeks, please consult your doctor for proper care.