Can Allergies Cause a Dry Throat?

Common allergens can lead to dry or scratchy throat

A dry, scratchy throat can be caused by seasonal allergies, such as hay fever. Allergies occur when your immune system thinks a harmless substance, called an allergen, is harmful. This can cause you to experience symptoms, including a dry or scratchy throat.

Learn more about allergies and dry throat in this article.

Causes of Dry Throat

Verywell / Jessica Olah

How Do Allergies Cause Dry Throat?

Allergies are commonly caused by hay fever, cold weather, and other environmental allergens, such as dust, dander, mold, and pollen.

Hay fever: The term "hay fever" is a bit misleading since fever isn't one of the symptoms of this condition. Hay fever is also called allergic rhinitis because it includes a variety of symptoms that affect your nose. Symptoms can include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Postnasal drip
  • Itchy eyes, nose, mouth, and throat
  • Red, swollen eyes
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing

Postnasal drip occurs when excess mucus drains from your sinuses and nasal passageways into the back of your throat. This can lead to the feeling of dryness or scratchiness, and it often makes you feel like you constantly need to clear your throat.

Hay Fever Statistics

If you suffer from hay fever symptoms, you're not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 19 million people said they were diagnosed with hay fever in the United States in the past year.

Cold weather: A dry throat occurs more often in the winter than other months due to the cold weather. Air is drier during the winter months because the humidity is lower. This can cause dry air to enter the throat and nasal passages. In addition, people tend to spend more time indoors, which leads to worsening of symptoms caused by indoor allergens, such as dust, pet dander, and cockroach droppings.

Other allergens and irritants: Dry throat is also commonly triggered by airborne allergens and irritants, both indoors and outdoors. These can include:

  • Smoke (such as from wood, cigarettes, and candles)
  • Smog
  • Fragrances
  • Household chemicals
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Paint fumes
  • Hygiene products and cosmetics
  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Fungi

Is Your Dry Throat Due to Allergies or COVID-19?

Dry throat can be a symptom of allergies or a virus like COVID-19 or the common cold. You may be able to tell the difference based on other symptoms you're experiencing. The common cold and COVID-19, for example, don't cause symptoms like itchy eyes and nose. Similarly, allergies don't cause a fever.

The best way to know if COVID-19 is causing your symptoms is by taking a COVID-19 test. These are available over the counter and can produce a result in around 15 minutes.

Allergy Treatments & Remedies

Allergies—and the dry throat that accompanies them—can be treated with medications as well as home remedies and lifestyle changes.

  • Antihistamines: This type of medication blocks the effects of chemicals called histamines, which contribute to your dry nose and throat and other symptoms. Common antihistamine medications, such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Tylenol Cold and Cough (acetaminophen), Claritin (loratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), and Allegra (fexofenadine), are available over the counter. More serious allergy symptoms might require prescription medication.
  • Decongestants: These medications decrease stuffiness in your nose and sinuses, which reduces postnasal drip to help relieve your dry nose and throat. Note that using a decongestant for more than three days in a row can have the opposite effect, making swelling in your nasal passageways worse.
  • Lozenges/cough drops: Sucking on a lozenge, cough drop, or even a piece of hard candy increases saliva production. This type of treatment directly targets your dry throat symptoms, rather than treating the underlying cause.
  • Liquids: A dry throat can be worse if you're dehydrated. Drink plenty of fluids and monitor the color of your urine. If you're drinking enough, it should be pale yellow. Include hot liquids, such as tea or broth-based soups, to help soothe your dry throat. Consider adding some honey to your tea to coat your throat.
  • Saltwater gargle: Salt water helps reduce swelling and excess mucus in the back of your throat. Dissolve one-half teaspoon of salt in one cup of warm water and gargle (spit it out—don't swallow). Repeat as often as every hour while you're having symptoms.
  • Humidifiers and purifiers: Humidifiers add moisture to the air you breathe. Place one in your bedroom to ease symptoms and improve your sleep. Air purifiers can also be used in your home to decrease airborne allergens.

Serious allergies might require you to see a specialist, such as an allergist, for medical treatment. Allergy testing can help identify exactly what is causing symptoms like dry throat. And, if you know what your trigger is, you might be able to decrease your exposure to your allergen and minimize your symptoms.

For ongoing allergy issues, allergy shots are sometimes used to gradually introduce small amounts of your specific allergen into your body to help reduce your sensitivity over time.

Other Causes

Dry throat symptoms aren't only caused by allergies. Other conditions that can cause dry throat include sleeping with your mouth open, sleep apnea, acid reflux, the common cold, and anxiety.

Sleep issues: Breathing issues during sleep can cause a dry throat.

  • Mouth breathing while you're sleeping can cause a dry throat. If your nose is already congested due to allergies, you're at an even higher risk of breathing through your mouth while you sleep. Laying on your back can also make mouth breathing more likely.
  • Sleep apnea is another condition that can dry out your throat. Sleep apnea means that you stop breathing for brief periods of time while you are sleeping. This condition requires medical intervention. Sleep apnea can cause serious side effects, including stroke, heart attack, and sudden death. Seek medical attention if you suspect you have sleep apnea.

Acid reflux: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause throat irritation when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus.

Common cold: The common cold can cause throat dryness or irritation, along with other symptoms that also occur with allergies.

COVID-19: Dry, scratchy throat can also be a symptom of COVID-19. If you have COVID-19, you are likely to experience additional symptoms such as fever and stomach upset.

Anxiety: Dry mouth or throat can occur as a side effect of increased anxiety. Other common symptoms include fast heartbeat, trembling, dizziness, sweating, and shortness of breath.

A Word From Verywell

A dry throat can occur with a variety of medical conditions, including allergies. See your doctor to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms so you can be proactive with treatment. If you know you have allergies, talk to your doctor about allergy testing to see if you can identify your triggers.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do I have a dry throat from allergies or the common cold?

    Allergies and the common cold share similar symptoms, but they usually last for different amounts of time. The common cold typically resolves within a week, while allergy symptoms can last for months (or longer).

  • Will smoking make my dry throat worse?

    Smoking can cause throat dryness, with or without allergies. Smoking will likely worsen your allergy symptoms.

  • Is air conditioning bad for dry throat and allergies?

    Air conditioning can blow allergens into the air, which can make dry throat and allergies worse.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Hay fever.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FastStats - Allergies and hay fever.

  3. National Jewish Health. Winter allergy tips.

  4. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Air pollution.

  5. American Academy of Family Physicians. Antihistamines: Understanding your OTC options.

  6. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Allergy treatments.

  7. Harvard Health Publishing. When should I be concerned about the color of my urine?

  8. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Allergy shots (immunotherapy).

  9. National Health Service. Symptoms - Generalised anxiety disorder in adults.

By Aubrey Bailey, PT, DPT, CHT
Aubrey Bailey is a physical therapist and professor of anatomy and physiology with over a decade of experience providing in-person and online education for medical personnel and the general public, specializing in the areas of orthopedic injury, neurologic diseases, developmental disorders, and healthy living.