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Kelsey-Seybold provider Dr. Hansen
Throat Clearing

What To Do About Constant Throat Clearing

September 15, 2023

While occasionally clearing your throat is normal, persistent throat clearing may be a symptom of one of many possible conditions ranging from post-nasal drip or chronic sinusitis to acid reflux.

Constant throat clearing is more than an annoyance. Over time, it can damage your vocal cords, which is why it's important to have it checked out. Pinpointing the cause is the key to getting some relief.

Common Causes of Throat Clearing

Post-Nasal Drip

One of the most common causes of chronic throat clearing is post-nasal drainage. This is best described as excess mucus dripping down the back of your throat. It can be caused by allergies, colds, and sinus infections.

Acid Reflux

Another common cause of throat clearing is acid reflux, more specifically laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), also known as silent reflux. LPR happens when stomach acid travels up the esophagus to your throat, leading to irritation, which in turn causes you to clear your throat. It is different than heartburn and often has no other symptoms except for excess mucus that collects in your pharynx or throat area.


Conditions such as chronic bronchitis, asthma, nasal allergies (e.g., pollen, dust, and animal dander), and respiratory infections can cause excess mucus production and persistent coughing that may also result in throat clearing.

Food allergies, chronic motor tic disorders, Tourette syndrome, and medication side effects (especially from ACE inhibitors prescribed to treat high blood pressure) are other possible causes of constant throat clearing.

Eating may trigger throat clearing in some individuals because of an allergic reaction to something they ate, spicy foods that worsened existing post-nasal drip, or conditions that can obstruct the passage of food through the esophagus.

Stress and Habitual Clearing

Constant throat clearing may also be a nervous habit. Stress, anxiety, and even subconscious patterns can lead to throat clearing without any physical cause.

Throat clearing may also be a symptom of vocal cord growths, such as polyps, nodules, and cysts.

Treatment Options

There are several treatment options, and which one is right for the patient depends on the cause.

Medications and Therapies

If post-nasal drip is to blame, try taking over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines. Using a saline spray, humidifying your living space, drinking warm liquids, and sleeping with your head elevated may help reduce the excess mucus you produce. Work with an allergist if you suspect allergies, are the culprit. They can help identify your allergic triggers and help you develop an appropriate management plan.

Diet and Lifestyle Changes

Changing your diet and certain lifestyle factors can help if your throat clearing is due to acid reflux. Losing just a few pounds can make a big difference if you’re overweight. Try a Mediterranean diet, one full of plant-based foods and healthy fats. Avoid acidic and spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol – all of which worsen acid reflux. Try eating small, more frequent meals, and don’t eat too close to bedtime. Your doctor may also prescribe a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), which reduces the acid your stomach produces.

Speech Therapy

Try speech therapy if your throat clearing is caused by vocal cord strain or a nervous habit. Doing so can provide ways to reduce how often you clear your throat. If you are constantly speaking in loud environments, take time to rest your voice.

Stress-Reducing Techniques

If your throat-clearing tendencies are a nervous habit, integrating stress-reducing techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga, into your daily routine may help.


Regardless of what causes the annoying tickle in your throat, drinking plenty of water and keeping your throat tissues moist can help reduce the irritation that triggers the need to clear your throat.

Surgery and Therapy

More aggressive treatment, such as surgery and neurological therapy, may be needed for some types of conditions that cause excessive throat clearing, such as chronic motor tic disorder and Tourette syndrome.

When To Seek Medical Help

Constant throat clearing can be a frustrating and sometimes socially awkward habit. However, it’s important to realize that there is often an identifiable cause and effective remedies.

But suppose your throat clearing is becoming more than just a nuisance and is accompanied by worrisome symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, persistent pain, blood in your phlegm, or unexplained weight loss. In that case, or if self-care treatments aren’t working, you should make an appointment with your doctor. They may recommend allergy testing or an endoscopy, a minimally invasive procedure, as the first step to determine the root cause of your throat clearing.

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