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Causes of a Burning Throat

Causes of a Burning Throat

Is your throat burning? An irritated or burning throat is a symptom that something isn’t right. While the following information is not meant to diagnose a throat condition (only your qualified physician can do that), it may help you identify the cause, so you can move forward with a comforting solution.

Here are some of the most common causes of a burning or otherwise irritated throat.

It’s allergy season

Spring gets lots of allergy attention, and it’s true that many plants flower – and therefore spread their pollen – this time of year. However, the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) reminds us that fall can be even more potent for allergy-sensitive beings.

During the late summer and autumn months, allergy-related burning throat could be caused by:

  • Mold and mildew
  • Dry leaves and leaf debris
  • Dust
  • Plants and trees that bloom during fall
  • School allergens
  • Pet allergies (cooler weather may mean less air circulation via closed windows, which can make you more vulnerable to pet allergies if you aren’t changing your air filters)

Use your insurance or local area nurse hotlines and describe your symptoms. They may recommend an over-the-counter allergy medicine to see if that helps. If not, a visit with your doctor is a good idea.

Acid reflux (heartburn)

Are all those heavier fall meals taking their revenge? Acid reflux is a common cause of a burning throat, the result of potent stomach acid making its way back up into the esophagus.

Your burning throat may be a symptom of acid reflux, especially if it’s accompanied by:

  • Trouble swallowing
  • A sour liquid or taste in the back of your mouth
  • Coughing
  • Feeling like food is stuck in your throat

While occasional heartburn is treated with antacids, persistent acid reflux should be evaluated professionally.


Snoring is hard on your throat because it dries out the membranes and perpetuates vibrational friction that causes inflammation. This is especially true if snoring is combined with seasonal allergies, heartburn or a common cold.

Snoring occasionally is normal, routine snoring is not normal at all and is a sign of underlying issues. If nightly snoring is noticed by yourself, your partner and/or others who sleep near schedule a visit with your doctor, ENT and/or a sleep lab to establish – and correct – the cause.

A common cold, flu or more serious infection

Sore throats are the most common tell of a common cold or flu, but a more severe sore throat and/or one that lasts more than a couple days may be a sign of a more serious infection. If you have a sore throat that lasts longer than two days, and/or is accompanied by a fever, severely swollen tonsils or pus pockets visible on your tonsils or throat, you may have tonsillitis or strep throat.

While a healthy immune system usually combats infection on its own, some types of infections (like strep, sinus infections or abscesses) require antibiotic treatment.

Post-nasal drip

We mentioned allergies, colds and infections – and all of these are likely to cause post-nasal drip. This occurs when the mucous produced in your sinus cavity run back down your throat, most often when you're reclined or laying down.

In addition to irritating the throat, post-nasal drip can also irritate your stomach and can even cause the tonsils to swell up and become sore. Addressing the cause of the excess mucous minimizes post-nasal drip.

In very rare cases, a burning throat can be a cause of esophageal – or throat – cancer. Again, this is very rare but it is a real thing. Early cancer detection is one of the reasons why we encourage everyone to address a burning throat head-on and establish its cause. In the minimal chance it is cancer-related, we have a greater chance of treatment success.

Is your throat giving you trouble? Perhaps it’s time to schedule an appointment with the ENT department here at Palouse Specialty Physicians.


Published on November 5, 2018