Why Does My Throat Burn? Possible Causes and Remedies

women-having-burning-throat
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mandy Liedeman

Key Takeaways

  • Various factors, including infections, acid reflux, irritants, and vitamin deficiencies, can cause a burning throat and ears.
  • Treating a burning throat depends on its underlying cause, and remedies can include gargling with salt water, using throat lozenges or sprays, staying hydrated, and using a humidifier.
  • Depending on the severity of the burn and the source, the recovery time for a burnt throat can range from a few days to several weeks.
  • A burning throat itself is not contagious, but the underlying conditions causing it, such as strep throat or respiratory infections, can be contagious.
  •  Concerning signs of a burning throat include persistent or worsening symptoms, difficulty breathing or swallowing, severe pain, fever, unexplained weight loss, or exposure to contagious conditions, which should prompt medical attention.
  • When managing a burning throat, choosing soft, non-irritating foods is recommended and avoiding spicy, acidic, rough-textured, and extreme-temperature foods that can further irritate the throat.

Overview 

Are you thinking right now, ‘Why is my throat burning?’ That uncomfortable sensation can be more than just an annoyance—it signals something isn’t quite right. In this article, we will dive into the reasons behind that burning feeling in your throat, breaking it down into simple terms.

We’ll explore common factors contributing to throat burns, such as stress, certain foods, and our daily habits. You’ll be surprised to learn how lifestyle choices, like eating and handling stress, can affect our throat health. By the end of this article, you’ll better understand why your throat burns and how you can find relief. With the help of this knowledge, you can make informed decisions about your lifestyle, diet, and overall well-being.

Why does my throat burn?

Colds and flu

When you have a cold or the flu, it’s common to experience a burning sensation in the throat. This can be attributed to several factors:

Inflammation

Viral infections that mainly affect the upper respiratory tract produce colds and flu. The viruses cause an immunological reaction, which causes nose and throat burning. This inflammation might cause a burning or aching sensation in the throat.

Postnasal drip

During a cold or flu, your body creates an abundance of mucus to aid in trapping and eliminating germs. This extra mucus can cause irritation and a burning sensation in the back of the throat.

Dryness

Illnesses like colds and the flu often lead to symptoms like fever, sweating, and increased respiration. These factors can contribute to dehydration, which can dry out the throat and cause discomfort, including a burning sensation you may feel like the back of your throat burns.

Coughing

Coughing is a frequent cold and flu symptom as the body attempts to eliminate mucus and irritants from the respiratory system. It frequently can irritate the throat lining, resulting in a burning or scratchy sensation.

Throat infection

Colds and flu can cause throat infections, such as pharyngitis or tonsillitis. These infections can lead to throat inflammation, redness, and discomfort, including a burning nose and throat.

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Tonsillitis

It is a disease that causes inflammation and swelling of the tonsils, which are located in the back of the throat. Tonsil irritation can contribute to a burning sensation in the throat. This is why:

Bacterial or viral infection

Tonsillitis is frequently the result of a bacterial or viral infection. It is commonly caused by bacterial infections, particularly group A streptococcus (Strep throat). Tonsillitis can be caused by viral infections, such as those associated with the common cold or flu. The infection inflames the tonsils, causing throat discomfort and a burning feeling.

Throat inflammation

The tonsil infection causes an immunological response, which results in inflammation. Tonsil inflammation can cause throat redness, swelling, pain, and a burning sensation.

Difficulty swallowing

Tonsillitis can make swallowing painful and challenging. The act of swallowing may exacerbate the discomfort and result in a burning sensation in the throat.

Postnasal drip

Tonsillitis is frequently associated with increased mucus production. Excess mucus can cause discomfort and contribute to a burning sensation in the back of the throat.

Throat dryness

Inflamed tonsils can lead to a dry feeling in the throat. The lack of moisture can cause discomfort and result in a burning sensation.

Read More: What Kills A Sore Throat Fast Overnight?

GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease arises when the muscle connecting the esophagus to the stomach weakens or relaxes. This weakening muscle permits food or stomach acid to enter the throat and, occasionally, the mouth. The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn, a burning sensation in the chest. The throat may burn after eating. Other symptoms may include nausea, bad breath, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, and a burning feeling in the throat. You may wake up with your throat burning.

How do I know if my sore throat is from acid reflux? Chat with Online Doctor

Strep Throat

The common bacterial infection strep throat primarily affects the throat and tonsils. It is caused by a bacteria called group A streptococcus (GAS). The following is an explanation of the burning sensation in the throat linked with strep throat:

Throat tissue damage

The Streptococcus bacteria release toxins that can damage the throat tissues. These toxins irritate the throat lining, causing discomfort and contributing to the burning feeling.

Sore throat

A severe sore throat characterizes strep throat. The inflammation and bacterial activity in the throat can lead to significant discomfort and pain, intensifying the burning sensation.

Other symptoms commonly associated with strep throat include:

  • Sudden onset of a sore throat
  • Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus
  • Painful or difficult swallowing
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Fatigue or malaise

Mono

Infectious mononucleosis, commonly known as mono, is a highly contagious viral infection primarily affecting teenagers and young adults. It usually takes about 4 to 6 weeks for symptoms to appear after contact with the virus. One of the early symptoms of mono is a painful or burning throat.

In addition to a sore throat, mono can cause several other symptoms, including:

Fever

Individuals with mono often experience an elevated body temperature accompanied by fever.

Extreme tiredness

Fatigue and a feeling of exhaustion are common in mono. People may feel exhausted and lack energy.

Aching muscles

Mono can lead to muscle aches and soreness throughout the body.

Headaches

Headaches are another common symptom of mono and can range from mild to severe.

Rash

Some individuals with mono may develop a rash, which can appear as small, red spots on the 

skin.

Recovery from mono usually takes around 2 to 4 weeks, but in some cases, symptoms may persist for several months. 

It’s essential to note that mono is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), primarily transmitted through saliva. 

Sinusitis

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinus cavities, causing a burning sensation in the nose. When sinusitis occurs, the sinus membranes become swollen and inflamed, obstructing the normal drainage of mucus. This obstruction can result in the accumulation of mucus in the sinuses, creating an environment favourable for the growth of bacteria, viruses, or fungi.

As the infection progresses, the inflammatory response triggers the release of various immune cells, which can irritate the nasal passages. The irritation and swelling in the nasal passages cause nasal passage burning. Additionally, the excess mucus produced due to the infection can drip down the back of the throat, causing a burning sensation in the throat.

Moreover, bacteria or viruses in the sinuses can also directly affect the nasal tissues, causing inflammation and a burning sensation. These pathogens can release toxins that irritate the nasal membranes and contribute to discomfort.

It is important to note that sinusitis can have various causes, including viral or bacterial infections, allergies, or structural abnormalities in the nasal passages. 

How do I know if my sore throat is from acid reflux? Speak with Online Doctor

Burning Mouth Syndrome

Chronic pain and a burning or tingling sensation in and around the mouth characterize Burning Mouth Syndrome. It is classified as a pain disorder and can be highly distressing for individuals who suffer from it.

Other common symptoms of burning mouth syndrome include dry mouth and an altered or unusual taste in the tongue, in addition to the burning sensation. The pain might spread to numerous regions of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, and roof of the mouth.

Esophagitis

Esophagitis is inflammation of the esophagus. GERD, medication, infection, or an allergy can cause this inflammation.

Postnasal drainage

Common symptoms include a burning throat, difficulty swallowing, and heartburn.

One form of inflammation is eosinophilic esophagitis. As a result of this recurrent food allergy, the food pipe becomes irritated. The compilation of mucus in the nasal passages that drops down the back of the throat is known as postnasal drainage. It can cause throat burn for a variety of causes, including:

  • Irritation of the throat
  • Acid reflux
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Allergies
  • Infections

Laryngopharyngeal reflux

LPR is a kind of reflux that occurs when stomach acid enters the larynx and throat. It can produce throat burn, hoarseness, a chronic cough, and a persistent sense of a lump in the throat. Obesity, certain drugs, and eating acidic or fatty meals can all contribute to LPR.

Pharyngitis

Throat on fire? It can be pharyngitis. Which is an inflammation of the pharynx. The throat region behind the mouth and nasal cavity. It can cause throat burn for the following reasons:

  • Viral infection
  • Bacterial infection
  • Allergic reactions
  • Irritation from irritants
  • Gastroesophageal reflux

Throat burn, aching throat, difficulty swallowing, redness and swelling of the throat, hoarseness, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck are all symptoms of pharyngitis.

Vitamin Deficiencies

Throat burns can be caused by certain vitamin deficiencies that affect the health of the mucous membranes and tissues in the throat. Here are some specific vitamin deficiencies that can contribute to throat burn:

Vitamin C deficiency

Vitamin C is essential for keeping the mucous membranes in the throat healthy. Hence a lack of vitamin C can weaken mucous membranes, making the throat more prone to irritation and inflammation. This can result in a burning sensation in your throat.

Vitamin B complex deficiency

Various B vitamins, such as B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and B6 (pyridoxine), are essential for maintaining the health of the throat and oral tissues. Deficiencies in these vitamins can cause dryness, cracking, and throat inflammation, leading to a burning sensation.

Vitamin A deficiency

Vitamin A is necessary for the integrity of epithelial tissues, particularly those in the throat. A lack of vitamin A can cause mucous membrane weakening and dryness, hence leaving the throat more prone to irritation and pain.

Vitamin E deficiency

Vitamin E is well-known for its antioxidant capabilities and is particularly involved in cell membrane protection. Hence a vitamin E shortage can impair the cellular structure of throat tissues, making them more susceptible to irritation and causing a burning sensation.

Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D is essential for immunological function; hence, a lack might impair the body’s capacity to fight throat infections. Infections can cause swelling and a burning sensation.

Allergies and Burning Throat

Allergies can cause a burning throat through a process known as postnasal drip. When exposed to allergens such as pollen, pet dander, mold spores, or certain foods, your immune system releases histamines and other chemicals. These substances trigger inflammation and excessive mucus production in the nasal passages and sinuses.

Excess mucus can drip down the back of your throat, a condition called postnasal drip. The mucus can irritate and inflame the throat, resulting in a burning sensation. Additionally, the inflammation in the throat caused by allergies can make the tissues more sensitive, leading to discomfort and burning.

What is the best medicine to take for burning throat? See an Online Doctor

How do you get rid of a burning throat?

To alleviate a burning throat, you can try the following remedies:

Drink plenty of fluids

Stay hydrated by drinking water and soothing liquids, e.g. herbal teas, warm broths, or lukewarm water with honey and lemon. Avoid beverages that can irritate the throat, such as caffeinated or carbonated drinks.

Gargle with saltwater

Gargle with half a teaspoon of salt in warm water many times daily. Saltwater can aid in the reduction of inflammation and additionally provide temporary comfort.

Try honey

Consuming honey directly or adding it to warm beverages can help relieve the throat. Honey has natural antibacterial properties; additionally, it can help reduce inflammation.

Use a humidifier

Dry air might exacerbate throat irritation. Hence using a humidifier and a hot shower may help provide moisture to the air and soothe the throat.

Avoid irritants

Transparent substances that irritate the throat, such as cigarette smoke, strong chemical fumes, spicy or acidic foods, and alcohol. These can further aggravate the burning sensation.

Rest your voice

Talking excessively or straining your voice can worsen throat discomfort. Rest your voice as much as possible, and avoid yelling or whispering.

Over-the-counter pain relievers

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), e.g. ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help reduce throat inflammation and provide temporary relief. Follow the recommended dosage and guidelines.

Medications

Throat burning can be caused by various factors, e.g. acid reflux, infections, allergies, or irritants. The appropriate treatment for throat burning depends on the underlying cause.

Antacids

If throat burning is due to acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), antacids can help neutralize stomach acid and provide relief. Common over-the-counter antacids include Tums, Rolaids, and Maalox.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)

These are stronger acid reducers that can provide long-lasting relief for acid-related conditions. e.g. include omeprazole (Prilosec), esomeprazole (Nexium), and lansoprazole (Prevacid). These medications require a prescription.

H2 blockers

H2 blockers reduce stomach acid production and can help relieve throat burning. They are available over the counter or by prescription, e.g. ranitidine (Zantac) and famotidine (Pepcid).

Antihistamines

These can help reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms if throat burning is due to allergies. Over-the-counter options include cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin), and fexofenadine (Allegra).

Throat lozenges or sprays

Medications in the form of lozenges or sprays can temporarily relieve throat burning. They often contain ingredients like benzocaine or menthol, which have a numbing effect on the throat.

How do I know if my sore throat is viral or bacterial? See Our Online Doctors

FAQs Answered by Your Doctors Online Team

Can a sore throat feel like burning?

Yes, a sore throat can feel like burning. The inflammation and irritation in the throat can result in a burning sensation, often described as a discomforting or stinging feeling. This burning sensation can be caused by various factors such as viral or bacterial infections, acid reflux, allergies, dryness, or throat irritation.

What kills a sore throat fast?

Gargling with warm salt water, taking over-the-counter pain medicines like NSAIDs, using throat lozenges or sprays with numbing chemicals, staying hydrated by drinking drinks, and using a humidifier can all help ease a sore throat rapidly. According to the cause, medication can be prescribed after a visit to a doctor.

How long does it take for a burnt throat to heal?

Minor throat burns caused by hot liquids or meals generally heal within a few days to a week with reasonable care and avoiding other irritants. On the other hand, more severe burns or burns produced by chemicals or acids may take longer to heal and necessitate medical attention.

Is burning throat contagious?

No, a burning throat does not spread. A burning throat is usually a symptom of an underlying ailment such as acid reflux, strep throat, or respiratory infections, which might be communicable depending on the cause. For example, group A Streptococcus bacteria cause strep throat, which is infectious and can spread by respiratory droplets.

When should I be worried about a burning throat?

If the burning sensation lasts or worsens over time, if you have difficulty swallowing or breathing, or if the burning throat is accompanied by severe pain, fever, or other worrying symptoms, seek medical attention. Additional red flags include unusual weight loss, chronic hoarseness, or contact with contagious diseases such as strep throat or respiratory illnesses

What foods help a burning throat?

Opt for soft, non-irritating foods such as mashed potatoes, yogurt, applesauce, and oatmeal. These foods are gentle on the throat and easy to swallow. Cold or room-temperature foods like smoothies, popsicles, and chilled soups can be soothing. Adding honey to warm herbal teas or water can also help soothe the throat. Avoid spicy, acidic, and rough-textured foods that irritate the throat further.

What not to eat during a throat infection?

During a throat infection, it is advisable to avoid certain foods that can worsen the symptoms and irritate the throat. Spicy foods, acidic foods and beverages (like citrus fruits, tomatoes, and carbonated drinks), and hot or cold temperature extremes should be avoided. Also, rough and scratchy foods such as chips, crackers, and crusty bread should be avoided as they aggravate the throat lining. Steer clear of hard-to-swallow foods, like large pieces of meat or hard candies, which can cause discomfort. Avoid alcohol and tobacco as they can exacerbate the throat infection and delay healing.

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