Throat Irritation due to Acid Reflux

Acid reflux disease, which is also called gastroesophageal reflux, occurs when the lower sphincter muscle at the end of the esophagus is not able to prevent the backflow of the contents of the stomach into the esophagus. Laryngopharyngeal reflux is another similar condition which is common in infants. In case of laryngopharyngeal reflux, the sphincter muscles located at either end of the esophagus are unable to function properly. As a result, the gastric contents of the stomach (stomach acid) backs up into the back of the throat (pharynx) or voice box (larynx). At times, the stomach acid could even flow back into the back of your nasal airway. This can lead to the inflammation of the tissues in these areas. Heartburn is a characteristic symptom of gastroesophageal reflux. Laryngopharyngeal reflux, which is sometimes referred to as silent reflux, is more likely to cause throat irritation.

What is Acid Reflux?

In case of acid reflux, stomach acid travels towards the esophagus, which is a passage between the stomach and pharynx. The esophagus is an important part of the digestive system, as it conveys the food and fluids from the oral cavity to the stomach. The esophagus consists of two important sphincter muscles, namely the lower esophageal sphincter muscle and the upper esophageal sphincter muscle. Under normal circumstances, the lower esophageal sphincter muscle closes right after food passes through it. If it doesn’t close all the way, or it opens too often, acid produced by your stomach can move up into the esophagus. In case the upper esophageal sphincter muscle is also abnormal, or doesn’t function properly, the stomach acid enters and inflames the voice box or throat. The gastric contents of the stomach cause inflammation of the sensitive tissue at back of the throat or the back of the nasal airway. Laryngopharyngeal reflux is common in infants, as their sphincter muscles are not yet fully developed, and their esophagus is short as well. Moreover, most of their time is spent in the supine (lying down) position.

Associated Symptoms

Laryngopharyngeal reflux could give rise to:

➻ Constant clearing of throat
➻ Irritation of throat
➻ Chronic or barking cough
➻ Inflamed vocal cords
➻ Wheezing
➻ Noisy breathing
➻ Hoarseness
➻ Lump in the throat feeling
➻ Trouble breathing
➻ Excessive production of mucus in the throat
➻ Trouble swallowing
➻ Postnasal drip

Simple Precautions for Acid Reflux

There are some simple precautions that one can take in order to minimize the problem of reflux.

➻ Elevate the torso while sleeping. This ensures that the contents of the stomach do not travel in the opposite direction.
➻ Instead of having three heavy meals, you should have frequent, smaller meals. Also, avoid food items that are spicy and rich in fat.
➻ Cut down on the intake of alcohol, tobacco, and caffeinated beverages.
➻ Make sure that there’s an interval of at least 2 hours between the dinner and bedtime.
➻ Gargling with salt water in the morning will also provide relief from sore throat.
➻ Also, drink adequate amounts of water on a daily basis.

Do follow the aforementioned precautionary measures to prevent acid reflux disease or laryngopharyngeal reflux. In severe cases, antacids, stomach acid reducers, or proton pump inhibitors can be taken to alleviate the symptoms. It is advisable to take the drugs as per the prescribed dosage. If you are taking over-the-counter drugs, follow the directions provided on the label.