Too much habitual throat clearing harms the throat and vocal chords if left untreated. Picture: Patrick Mtolo

London - Colleagues who habitually clear their throats have long been the bane of many office workers’ lives.

But they now have a good reason to be silenced, after experts warned that the process can do more harm than good.

Brian Rotskoff, of the Claritin Allergy Centre in Chicago, says that too much habitual throat clearing harms the throat and vocal cords if left untreated.

He believes that if someone is frequently clearing their throat for more than three months, the condition becomes chronic and can gradually alter the voice.

But once someone becomes used to clearing their throat, it can become more of a behavioural issue, that is the more they clear their throat, the more they will feel like they need to clear it.

Dr Rotskoff, who specialises in a variety of throat conditions such as asthma, nasal allergies and sleep apnoea, often sees chronic throat clearers and coughers whose voices are affected.

He said: “Throat clearing is a symptom, not a condition.

“Often it’s the spouse of a throat clearer that pushes them in my door.

“It’s like chronic snoring – because it’s pain-free, those around you are the most bothered.”

He adds that the need to clear your throat usually begins with causes like a cold or upper respiratory infection, but sometimes patients are unclear of the onset and can remember always having a constant tickle around their voice box.

Like a chronic cough, and sometimes nasal congestion, throat clearing results from something affecting the throat or airways.

It can be caused by something actually being stuck in the back of the throat, but the sensation often tickles the throat without anything actually being there.

“Your throat and vocal cords take repeated abuse with constant clearing.

“The resulting inflammation only reinforces the urge to clear and the cycle continues. Even if you don’t feel discomfort there can be lasting damage to your throat and voice,” said Rotskoff.

Some experts say habitual throat clearing is a reflex action that people can have when they are under stress.

“It’s common among young entrepreneurs, carers of sick relatives or anyone living with constant pressure in their lives,” says Adam Frosh, a consultant ear, nose and throat specialist at the Lister Hospital, Hertfordshire.

But it can also be linked to allergies.

Phillip Song, a laryngologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston, argues that pollen and moulds can cause itchiness in the nose and throat that causes the desire to clear the throat.

Treatment for habitual throat clearing depends on the original cause of the problem.

There are medications available that ease reflux, allergies and asthma and voice therapy can help break the cycle.

Almost half of the population have experienced globus pharyngeus – feeling as if you have persistent phlegm or tightness in your throat.

Sufferers feel the regular need to clear their throat of phlegm, but an examination will find nothing physically wrong. – Daily Mail

 

WHY DO PEOPLE START HABITUALLY CLEARING THEIR THROATS?

* Asthma

* Hay fever

* Acid reflux

* Side-effects from blood pressure medication

* Habit

* Unexplained chronic cough