How to Get Rid of Congestion in Throat?

Written by: Jessica Guht Reviewed by: Amy Dougherty, FNP-BC, AGAC
Jessica Guht
Categorized as Health
Jessica Guht
Categorized as Health

It’s never a pleasant feeling. You’re going about your day when it suddenly feels like your throat is clogged. You swallow repeatedly, but you know that this is only a sign of what is to come. 

Throat congestion is never something you want to experience, but there are tips and tricks to make it more manageable and maybe even eliminate it. If you want to figure out why your throat feels clogged and how to clear the congestion in your throat, make sure to keep reading.

What is Throat Congestion?

Throat congestion refers to that feeling where your throat feels clogged. This happens because there is a buildup of mucus in the back of the throat. Some mucus in the throat is normal; it forms a protective barrier and helps to keep you healthy by protecting the body against viruses, bacteria, and other things that should not get in. In addition, mucus plays an essential role in ensuring that your respiratory tract does not dry out.

However, when the throat is irritated due to an infection, allergies, or other causes, the mucus can build up, leaving you feeling like your throat is clogged.

What Can Cause Throat Congestion?

Many things can cause throat congestion. Some of these include medical conditions, such as:

  • allergies
  • infections
  • irritation of the throat, nose, or lungs
  • lung diseases (pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD))
  • digestive conditions (GERD)

There are also lifestyle and environmental factors that can result in a clogged throat, including:

  • smoking 
  • a dry indoor environment
  • certain medications
  • low water consumption
  • high consumption of fluids that lead to water loss (coffee, alcohol, tea)

Throat Congestion Symptoms

Throat congestion can result in the following symptoms:

  • feeling that your throat is blocked
  • constantly clearing your throat
  • runny nose
  • feeling of mucus running down the back of your throat
  • persistent cough
  • facial pain or headache

How to Get Rid of Throat Congestion? – Treatment & Medicine

Self-care Steps

Humidify the Air

When the winter months set in and the air gets drier, many people begin to experience a clogged throat. To combat this, use a humidifier to help humidify the air. This helps keep the mucus that resides in your throat thin, meaning you won’t experience a congested throat.

Take a Hot Shower

Along the same lines as a humidifier, taking a hot shower puts a lot of steam into the air. Breathing that in also thins out your mucus membranes, making it easier for you to expel the mucus from your throat or nose.

If you don’t want to take a shower but still want that benefit, try applying a warm, wet washcloth to your face and breathe deeply.

Stay Hydrated

There’s a reason why the number one tip when sick is to drink fluids. When you keep up with your fluid intake, you can help loosen the congestion in your throat and move it away, removing the throat clog. Warm fluids are especially effective at loosening up the mucus.

The best fluid choices include water, juice, broth, decaffeinated tea, or lemon water.

Eat Foods That Help Your Respiratory System

For centuries, natural remedies containing ingredients such as lemon, ginger, and garlic have been used to help relieve throat congestion. Spicy foods, such as those containing chili peppers or cayenne, may also help get mucus flowing. There is not a lot of scientific evidence to back up these claims, but there is no harm in giving it a try.

Other foods and supplements with some scientific evidence supporting their respiratory benefits include:

  • licorice root
  • berries
  • ginseng
  • pomegranate
  • echinacea
  • oral zinc

If you are taking prescription medications, be careful about trying anything new. In fact, it is best to check with a doctor before adding anything new to your diet because some things may affect the efficacy of your medicine, causing additional problems.

Medicine for Throat Congestion

When it comes to throat congestion, you will want to choose medicines that are expectorants, as these medicines help to thin out the mucus buildup, making it easier to cough out.

It is important to avoid decongestants as these medicines make it harder to cough out the mucus in your throat. When choosing an expectorant, be sure to choose one that does not also contain a decongestant.

If your throat congestion is from allergies, visit an allergist for allergy medicine or try an over-the-counter option. Getting your allergies under control can help limit the likelihood of experiencing throat congestion again.

Get Help from an Online Doctor

Scheduling a virtual urgent care consultation with an online doctor is a quick and easy way to get a professional opinion on what to do for your congested throat. 

DrHouse is an app where you can connect with an online doctor in less than 15 minutes and schedule an in-person same-day doctor visit, allowing you to quickly get the help you need. It is also possible to purchase medications via built-in online pharmacy. 

If you’re not sure why your throat is clogged, talking to a doctor is a great way to get some answers and relief.

How Long Can Throat Congestion Last?

Throat congestion can last anywhere from a few days to weeks. It primarily depends on how long it takes for the condition causing it to pass.

When to See a Doctor?

In most cases, mucus is not a problem. However, if you notice that you are coughing up yellow or green mucus, this may be a sign of a viral or bacterial infection, and it is best to visit a doctor so that they can help determine the cause.

If your congested throat is due to a bacterial infection, the doctor can prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection and allow your throat to unclog.

If you have tried the at-home remedies listed above, and your clogged throat persists, that may also be a good time to visit a doctor and determine if there is a more serious cause of your clogged throat. However, in most cases, a clogged throat will resolve after a few days of care.

Key Takeaways

Throat congestion is an unpleasant feeling where your throat seems clogged or blocked. It can have many causes, including medical, lifestyle, or environmental. Determining the cause can significantly affect how long you experience throat congestion and the best treatment method.

There are many at-home remedies that can be used to help ease throat congestion. Other treatments include medication or visiting with an online doctor.

Throat congestion typically clears up within a few days. If it persists or becomes severe, be sure to visit a doctor so that they can determine what the cause behind your throat congestion is.


DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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