Speech and Language: Persistent throat symptoms :: North Cumbria Integrated Care (2024)

You may feel that your throat is dry or itchy, or it may feel as if there is something sticking in your throat, such as thick mucus or catarrh.

One of the best ways to make your throat feel better is to drink more:

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  • ​​​​Take small sips of water little and often throughout the day
  • Try a motivational water bottle.
  • Reduce how much caffeine you drink e.g. coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks. Caffeine can be drying on your throat.
  • Aim for 6-8 glasses of non-caffeinated fluid e.g. water, squash, herbal tea.
  • Try drinking warm fruit juices, lemon or lime water and decaffeinated tea to help reduce congestion.
  • Fresh pineapple and fresh papaya juice are especially good at thinning out thick and sticky mucus.
  • Try reducing dairy products from your diet as these can increase mucus in your throat.
Other ways to loosen mucus include:
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  • Inhaling steam. Try to inhale steam 8 – 10 times a day e.g. the bath; over pans whilst cooking; whilst ironing etc, inhaling steam from a cup when taking hot drinks or from a mug of hot water
  • You could trial a steam inhaler cup

(available online or from pharmacies – around £5).

Sucking on a sugar free sweet to keep your mouth and throat moist. Avoid menthol lozenges that can have a drying effect.


  • Add moisture to your rooms by putting shallow bowls of water on top of your radiators or using a table-top humidifier in very dry rooms.
Ways to help with mucus at the back of the nose include:

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  • A steroid nasal spray from your GP to help a constant runny nose.
  • A saline spray such as Sterimar
  • Saline nasal rinses at home to ease nasal congestion (use 3-4 x per day)
Help moisten your mouth by:
  • Using a fine water spray into your mouth. This can be especially useful at night if you sleep with your mouth open, to prevent drying out.
  • Saliva replacement gels for night-time e.g. Biotene Oral Balance Gel.
  • Special mouthwashes, toothpastes and chewing gums that help to keep moisture in your mouth.
  • Certain lozenges that add moisture to your mouth e.g. Salivix pastilles, Xylimelts

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If you have problems with your chest e.g. asthma, try:
  • Using saline nebulisers.
  • Using a spacer when taking your inhalers.
  • Rinsing your mouth, gargling and/or inhaling steam after taking inhalers.

Repeated coughing and throat-clearing can lead to tightening of the muscles in the voice box and the vocal cords becoming red or bruised. To better understand the effects of coughing and throat-clearing on your voice box, it sometimes helps to think what happens if you treat a part of your body that you can see like this.

For example, you have an itch on your hand, scratching your hand can cause the skin to become hot, red and dry, you may even break the skin. Throat-clearing and coughing is like scratching an itch on your vocal cords, the more you do it, the more irritated they will become.

Your ENT specialist may give you strategies to stop irritable coughs and throat-clearing, including:

  • Taking sips of water and swallowing instead of coughing
  • Breathing exercises

If you feel stomach acid coming up into your throat or your mouth, causing a sour bitter taste or a burning sensation after eating, you could try an alginate medication such as Gaviscon or Peptac to ease symptoms. These need to be taken at least 20 minutes after food and at least 20 minutes before lying down.

Often the best advice is to make changes to your lifestyle:
  • Limit spicy foods
  • Don’t eat within 3 hours of going to bed
  • Try to sleep on your left side
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  • Raise the head of the bed. A bed with legs can be simply lifted 6-8 inches at night by placing books or wooden blocks under the legs at the head end. This is not so feasible if you have a mattress on a frame. In that case, it might be helpful to consider purchase of a mattress topping anti reflux wedge. These cost about £30 and are available from on-line retailers. One example trade name is the Wedgehog. This might help limit mucus gathering in the throat overnight, as well as reducing movement of stomach content up the gullet into the throat while you are asleep
  • Try to lose weight if you are overweight

See www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Healthyweightcalculator for your healthy BMI

Other lifestyle changes for managing stomach acid include:
  • Stop smoking.
  • Reduce intake of caffeine and fizzy drinks.
  • Reduce your fat intake e.g. limit red meat, full fat dairy, fried food, chocolate.
  • Eat smaller meals.
  • Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink, especially white wine and spirits.
  • Bend from the knees not the waist
  • Avoid tight fitting underwear, skirts or trousers

Medications can also have a drying effect on your throat; your GP might be able to change your medication. It is important not to stop any medications without medical advice. Medications with a drying effect include anti-depressants, statins, hyoscine, atropine and some blood pressure tablets

Drinking more and inhaling steam can be helpful in reducing the drying side effects from such medications.

Medications that can help with throat dryness include:

  • Mucolytics such as Mucodyne – these break down protein in mucoid secretions

Non- prescription products from health food stores that may help include:

  • Bromelain (the enzyme in fresh pineapple)
  • Papain tablets or Papaya plus (or papaya fruit).

Please use the following QR code or website link to access the video that accompanies this leaflet:

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For further information
Contact details

North Cumbria Adult Speech and Language Therapy Department,

Room 1450, Lower Ground Floor, Cumberland Infirmary, Newtown Road, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA2 7HY

Tel: 01228 608332


North Cumbria Adult Speech and Language Therapy Department,

Level 4, West Cumberland Hospital, Homewood Road, Hensingham, Whitehaven, Cumbria, CA28 8JG

Tel: 01900 705082 (referral line)


Useful websites

Visit the NCIC Adult Speech and Language Therapy website athttps://www.ncic.nhs.uk/services/speech-and-language-therapy

https://www.britishvoiceassociation.org.uk/has free literature with advice on voice care.

We kindly thank the ENT SLT Team, Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for permission to reproduce and share this advice sheet and video link.

Disclaimer:This publication is designed for the information of patients. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, the information contained may not be comprehensive and patients should not act upon it without seeking professional advice.


‘The Trust’s vision is to keep your information safe in our hands.’ We promise to use your information fairly and legally, and in-line with local and national policies. You have a right to understand how your information is used and you can request a copy of the information we hold about you at any time.

For further information on confidentiality contact the Information Governance Team:

Information.Governance@ncic.nhs.uk|01228 603961


We appreciate and encourage feedback, which helps us to improve our services. If you have any comments, compliments or concerns to make about your care, please contact the Patient, Advice & Liaison Service:

pals@ncic.nhs.uk | 01228 814008 or 01946 523818

If you would like to raise a complaint regarding your care, please contact the Complaints Department:

complaints@ncic.nhs.uk | 01228 936302

Speech and Language: Persistent throat symptoms :: North Cumbria Integrated Care (2024)
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