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Dry Throat: Is it Covid-19, The Cold, or Flu?

  • Post published:March 7, 2023
  • Post category:Blog

Dry throat is a common symptom that can be caused by a variety of factors, including allergies, colds, sleeping with your mouth open, and dehydration. While not typically life-threatening, dry throat can also be a symptom of more serious illnesses such as COVID-19. Luckily, many of the causes of the dry throat can be treated with over-the-counter medications and at-home remedies. However, it can be difficult to determine the exact cause of your dry throat on your own. If your symptoms persist or you have concerns, it’s always a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider.

It can be difficult to tell exactly what is causing a sore or dry throat as it’s a common symptom of many illnesses and it can also be caused by various lifestyle factors.

Colds and flu are known to cause a dry throat, and millions of Americans get these viral infections each year.

Similarly, allergies and COVID-19 can also cause dry throat.

Allergic rhinitis affects 60 million Americans annually, while the latest statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) reveal over 12,000 daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

Because dry throat is such a common condition, it can be difficult to determine the cause.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at many of the factors that could be contributing to dry throat, as well as how to treat and manage symptoms.

What is Dry Throat?

pic of sore throat

A dry throat is a condition characterized by a sensation of dryness, irritation, or scratchiness in the throat. Other symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and a sore throat. A dry throat can occur as a result of a range of causes, including viral infections, allergies, dehydration, and sleeping with the mouth open.

Why do I Have a Dry Throat?

Several factors can contribute to dry throat. The condition may occur due to viral infections like colds and flu, which can cause inflammation and irritation of the throat tissues. Allergies can also cause dry throat, as can lifestyle habits such as sleeping with the mouth open, smoking, and exposure to dry air. Additionally, some medical conditions like acid reflux and Sjogren’s syndrome can lead to a dry throat.

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The Importance of Treating Dry Throat:

While dry throat is not typically a severe condition, it can be uncomfortable and cause difficulty swallowing or speaking. In some cases, untreated dry throat can lead to complications such as throat infections or voice changes. Additionally, if the dry throat is a symptom of an underlying condition like COVID-19, treating the underlying cause is essential to prevent complications and promote overall health. Treating dry throat may involve self-care measures like drinking plenty of fluids, using a humidifier, or sucking on lozenges. In some cases, medical treatment may be necessary, such as medications to reduce inflammation or allergy symptoms.

What Causes a Dry Throat?

A dry throat can be caused by a range of factors, including viral infections such as colds and flu, allergies, lifestyle habits like smoking and sleeping with the mouth open, exposure to dry air, dehydration, and certain medical conditions. Because there are so many possible causes, pinpointing the precise reason for dry throat can be challenging. In some cases, medical evaluation and testing may be necessary to identify the underlying cause.

Some Causes Include:

Normal or seasonal allergies

An allergic reaction happens when the immune system overreacts to normal substances in the environment such as dust, pollen, or pet hair. These allergies can be seasonal or perennial and are often treated with over-the-counter medicines.

The symptoms of allergies can range from mild to severe and include a runny or stuffy nose, itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, postnasal drip, fatigue, and congestion in the nasal tract. Mouth breathing due to congestion can also cause a dry throat.

Allergies can persist for four to six weeks or an entire season and typically occur around the same time each year. Identifying the specific allergen triggering the reaction can help manage symptoms effectively.

The common cold and flu

The common cold and flu are viral infections that primarily affect the respiratory system, causing a range of symptoms such as:

  • aches
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • muscle weakness
  • sneezing
  • congestion and sore throat

While the symptoms of these two illnesses are similar, the flu can also cause a headache and fever. Symptoms for both usually last between one to two weeks. The congestion caused by colds and flu can lead to mouth breathing, which can contribute to a dry throat.


covid-19 virus pic

A dry throat isn’t a common symptom of COVID-19, but it can result as a side effect of other symptoms like congestion or shortness of breath.

Some signs of a sore and dry throat that may be caused by COVID-19 are similar to those of a common cold, including a scratchy and painful throat that worsens when swallowing.

If you suspect COVID-19 is causing your dry throat, check if you have any of the following symptoms as well:

    • Fever
    • Dry cough
    • Headaches
    • Shortness of breath
    • Loss of taste and/or smell
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Muscle and body aches
    • Congested or runny nose
    • Diarrhea

To confirm your condition, you’ll need to take a COVID-19 test.

COVID-19 is highly contagious, so it’s important to follow an isolation plan to keep those around you safe.

Distinguishing the Difference Between Allergies, COVID-19, Colds, and Flu Symptoms

It can be challenging to distinguish the cause of your dry throat. To help you identify the potential source, the following table highlights the typical symptoms associated with each illness.

If your symptoms persist or worsen, it’s recommended to seek medical attention immediately.

Symptom: Congestion 

Allergies: common 

COVID-19: common

Common Cold: common

Flu: common

Symptom: Headaches

Allergies: rare

COVID-19: common

Common Cold: common

Flu: common

Symptom: Cough

Allergies: may occur

COVID-19: common

Common Cold: common

Flu: common

Symptom: Fatigue

Allergies: may occur

COVID-19: common

Common Cold: common

Flu: common

Symptom: Sneezing

Allergies: common

COVID-19: may occur

Common Cold: common

Flu: common

Symptom: Fever

Allergies: rare

COVID-19: common

Common Cold: may occur

Flu: common

Symptom: Loss of taste or smell

Allergies: may occur

COVID-19: common

Common Cold: rare

Flu: rare

Symptom: Nausea or vomiting

Allergies: rare

COVID-19: may occur

Common Cold: may occur

Flu: may occur

Symptom: Dry throat

Allergies: may occur

COVID-19: may occur

Common Cold: may occur

Flu: may occur

Symptom: Muscle aches

Allergies: rare

COVID-19: common

Common Cold: common

Flu: common

Symptom: Sore throat

Allergies: may occur

COVID-19: common

Common Cold: common

Flu: common

Symptom: Shortness of breath or difficulty eating

Allergies: rare

COVID-19: common

Common Cold: rare

Flu: common

Other Medical Reasons

Some nonrespiratory issues can also be a reason for a dry throat. Here are a few to look over.


Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that affects the lungs and can result in difficulty breathing. The physical symptoms of asthma include:

  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Breathlessness or difficulty breathing
  • Coughing, particularly at night or early in the morning

People with asthma may also experience an asthma attack, which can be life-threatening. An asthma attack occurs when the airways suddenly narrow, causing breathing difficulties. If you experience an asthma attack, seek immediate medical attention.

While there is no cure for asthma, there are various treatment options available. These include:

  • Taking medications to relieve symptoms and manage inflammation
  • Using an inhaler to deliver medication directly to the lungs
  • Monitoring your breathing and identifying triggers that can cause asthma symptoms
  • Avoiding triggers like air pollutants, strong emotions and stress, or certain medications.


Tonsillitis is a condition where the tonsils become infected with viruses or bacteria, and can cause the following symptoms:

  • Dry and sore throat
  • Red and swollen tonsils
  • White patches on the tonsils
  • Bad breath
  • Hoarse voice
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Headaches

Antibiotics can be used to treat tonsillitis, and symptoms typically improve within 7 to 10 days. In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove the tonsils.

Strep throat

which is caused by infectious bacteria, can cause symptoms similar to tonsillitis such as:

  • Dry and sore throat
  • Red and swollen tonsils
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Body aches
  • White patches on the tongue and tonsils

Antibiotics are also used to treat strep throat to remove harmful bacteria from the body.

Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Occurs when acid or stomach bile rises up into the esophagus, which can burn the lining of the esophagus and cause symptoms like:

  • Hoarse voice
  • Sore and dry throat due to trouble swallowing
  • Dry cough
  • Burning feeling in the chest (heartburn)

Over-the-counter medications like antacids can be used to relieve common symptoms of acid reflux or GERD.


lifestyle picture

There are various non-medical factors that can cause a dry throat. Below are some lifestyle factors that can contribute to this condition:

Sleeping with your mouth open

If you often wake up with a dry throat or mouth, it may be due to sleeping with your mouth open. Breathing through your mouth during the day can also lead to a dry throat by reducing saliva production.

This can also lead to:

Halitosis or bad breath Snoring Daytime fatigue

Mouth breathing can indicate underlying issues such as nasal congestion caused by allergies or colds, or a deviated septum.

Snoring can also be a sign of sleep apnea, a serious condition that causes a person’s airway to repeatedly become blocked during sleep.


  • Reduced production of saliva needed to keep the mouth and throat moist
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Darker or decreased urine output
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Overuse of the voice, which can cause:
    • Irritation and inflammation of the vocal cords
    • Symptoms such as hoarseness, weak or lost voice, and sore throat
    • Increased risk of laryngitis (acute or chronic inflammation of the vocal cords that may increase the risk of bacterial infection)

Overusing your Voice

Overuse of the voice, which can cause:

    • Irritation and inflammation of the vocal cords
    • Symptoms such as hoarseness, weak or lost voice, and sore throat
    • Increased risk of laryngitis (acute or chronic inflammation of the vocal cords that may increase the risk of bacterial infection)

Other lifestyle factors

These can include:

  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Drug use
  • Certain medications
  • Indoor heaters

These activities can absorb moisture in the mouth and throat, leading to decreased saliva production and a dry throat.

How to Treat A Dry Throat?

In many cases, a dry throat can be easily treated with simple measures. Below, we’ll discuss some of the most effective ways to alleviate the discomfort of a dry throat.

OTC medication

If a dry throat is caused by medical conditions such as allergies, infections, or other illnesses, over-the-counter medications may be the most appropriate course of action. These may include:

  • Antihistamines to relieve allergy symptoms
  • Pain and fever medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Antacids to reduce acid reflux and GERD symptoms

However, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider before taking any medications to ensure that they are safe and effective for your particular condition. Your healthcare provider will be able to recommend the best treatment plan for you.

Home remedies

In addition to medication, your healthcare provider may recommend various home remedies to help alleviate the symptoms of a dry throat. These remedies are typically aimed at restoring moisture levels in the mouth and throat, and may include:

  • Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, and consuming soothing beverages like tea or broth to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Getting enough rest to boost your immune system’s ability to fight potential infections and promote a quicker recovery.
  • Steaming by using a hot shower, humidifier, or vaporizer to add moisture to your mouth and throat and relieve symptoms.
  • Sucking on throat lozenges to stimulate saliva production and moisten the throat.
  • Gargling with salt water to reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain.

Incorporating healthy habits such as staying hydrated into your daily routine can also help prevent dry throat in the future. Remember to consult with your healthcare provider before trying any new remedies or making any significant changes to your daily routine.

When to Worry About a Dry and Sore Throat?

While many causes of a dry throat are not serious and can resolve on their own, it is important to monitor your symptoms as dry throat can also be caused by more serious medical conditions such as COVID-19, GERD, or lung disease.

If you have tried the treatment options discussed in the previous section without experiencing any improvement, it may be necessary to speak with your healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms and to discuss additional treatment options.

Do You Struggle With a Dry Throat?

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While a dry throat is often a symptom of common illnesses or lifestyle factors, it can also be an indicator of underlying medical conditions such as COVID-19 or GERD.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms discussed in this article or have concerns about your health, you can speak with a board-certified doctor or nurse practitioner. Once you obtain a prescription, visit Speedy Sticks to schedule your first appointment for at-home blood work.

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