If you live with an elderly person, you may notice they are constantly clearing their throat. It is probably worse after meals, and it usually isn’t a gentle “ahem” either. It could be a lengthy and frankly disgusting sound. Turns out throat clearing is more than just an obnoxious sound, it can be an indicator of an underlying problem. The good news here is that if you can determine the issue that is causing the throat clearing, you can often treat it and either stop or at least lessen the throat clearing.
Why do People Clear Their Throat?
There are many different reasons that could cause someone to feel the need to clear their throat constantly. Some of those reasons include:
Reflux - Reflux is uncomfortable and can often cause throat clearing. Luckily, reflux can be treated with medication and also avoiding certain foods like caffeine, alcohol, and anything particularly spicy.
Allergies and postnasal drip - Many allergy sufferers will tell you the worst part of allergies is the post nasal drip. It doesn’t just feel uncomfortable, it is also gross. Staying hydrated and potentially using an over-the-counter decongestant can help get rid of postnasal drip.
A side effect of medication - some high blood pressure medication can cause the sensation of a tickle in the throat, leading to clearing the throat a lot. If you are taking medication for high blood pressure and doing lots of throat clearing, it may be worth checking in with your doctor to see if the two are related.
Constant Throat Clearing and Dementia
As we age, our senses of taste and smell change and decrease. Our esophagus also loses some of its elasticity, making it tougher to swallow. Both of these things make eating difficult, which can lead to throat clearing. Additionally, some seniors in the later stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s may occasionally forget to swallow, leading to throat clearing to get rid of the natural saliva that builds up in our mouths.
How to Stop Clearing Throat Constantly
The first step to stop constantly clearing the throat should be a chat with your doctor. They can determine the underlying cause of the throat clearing and treat that, which should help stop the throat clearing. Another way to stop constant throat clearing is simple awareness. When you feel the need to clear your throat, take a drink of water instead. This should help move things down the throat. Staying hydrated will also help prevent the need for throat clearing.
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Often, people who clear their throat constantly - especially seniors - don’t even know they are doing it. They may need their caregiver to gently let them know when it is happening and remind them to drink water instead. It can be very frustrating and annoying to live with or be around someone who is always clearing their throat. But try to remember there is likely a cause that can be helped, and they probably don’t realize how often they are doing it or that it is making you nuts.