An introduction to sore, dry and itchy throats
Dry, itchy and sore throats are common symptoms which many hayfever sufferers have to endure. They may not be the symptoms which spring to mind when we think of allergies, but for those who experience it, they can be some of the most irritating, making it painful to swallow.
We all know that if we hold our nose, we have to breathe through our mouth. Holding your nose creates a similar effect to that of nasal congestion. If hayfever is causing a blocked nose, you will be forced to use your mouth to breathe.
Your nose is lined with fine hair and mucus, making it more effective at warming air than your mouth. Having a blocked nose means that cold air is entering your mouth and throat when you breathe, drying out the moisture created by saliva. As the tissue in your throat is more sensitive than your mouth, we tend to notice the effect of dryness in our throats first.
Your nose is also better at filtering air than your mouth. This means that it traps pollen particles before they can enter into your system. However, when you begin to breathe through your mouth, the pollen particles have direct access into your body. They land at the back of your throat, irritating the tissue.
Additionally, your body senses the arrival of pollen, and treats it as a potentially threatening foreign body. This triggers the release of the chemical histamine to fight off the invasion. Histamine causes the nerve endings to become more sensitive, resulting in symptoms of itchiness in the throat and soft palate.
The combination of a dry and itchy throat, particularly over a prolonged period of time such as throughout the hayfever season, often causes the throat tissues to become inflamed – this is experienced as a sore throat.
In addition, excess mucus in inflamed nasal passages and sinuses drains to the back of the throat, in a process called post-nasal drip. This mucus irritates the sensitive tissues of the throat, causing tenderness. This is particularly noticeable when swallowing.
Other causes of a sore throat
There are many causes of a sore throat, ranging from bacterial infections, flu, and causes as serious as throat cancer. If you are uncertain about the cause of your sore throat, or the symptoms do not ease after a couple of weeks, it is worth seeking the advice of a doctor.
If the pain and irritation in your throat is severe and accompanied by difficulty in breathing or swallowing, seek medical attention immediately. This is because in rare circumstances, allergies can give rise to swelling in the back of the throat to the extent that it becomes a medical emergency.
Are there home remedies for a sore throat?
As your sore throat is likely to be caused by dryness from breathing or irritation from post-nasal drip, it is important to drink plenty of water. This will keep the back of your throat moist, but will also help to thin the mucus building up at the back of your throat, reducing irritation. If your throat is feeling itchy, then drinking plenty of water will also ease the symptom.
If you are not fond of the taste of plain water, then drinking a concoction of warm water and honey has been used for years to ease the symptoms of a sore throat. Aside from the soothing effect this drink has, it has also been shown to be an effective wound healer, so may speed up recovery from the symptom.
Gargling salt water is another age-old remedy for sore throats. The antiseptic properties of salt should also prevent an infection from setting in.
Of course, as the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure, so trying to keep out of the way of pollen is probably the most effective remedy. Although it may be impossible to avoid pollen altogether, minimising your exposure to it by avoiding areas of freshly cut grass, for example, are measures worth employing.
Are there herbal remedies to help me?
If you are suffering from a sore throat with your hayfever, you are also likely to be experiencing other symptoms such as sneezing or nasal congestion. If this is the case, then a remedy tackling all symptoms of hayfever is likely to be the most effective. For example, Pollinosan Hayfever Tablets combine several different herbs in a formula devised by Alfred Vogel to target the symptoms of hayfever.
However, as this remedy can be taken alongside other remedies, you may also benefit from a sore throat spray, such as Echinaforce Sore Throat Spray, which combines extracts of Echinacea and sage.
What about conventional medicines?
If your sore throat is the result of hayfever or some other type of allergic reaction, anti-histamines can be used to ease the symptoms. However, some people develop a tolerance to anti-histamines, or experience side-effects such as drowsiness which can prevent you from driving or using machinery.
There are also various types of sore throat lozenges or painkillers which are available from a pharmacist to help to ease pain and inflammation in the throat. You should be careful to follow instructions which come with the medication as the wrong dosage can be potentially harmful.