Common Culprits of That Cold Feeling in Your Throat and How to Manage It
If you're reading this article, chances are you've been experiencing a cold feeling in your throat for no apparent reason. We're talking about a sensation that's quite different from the symptoms of a sore throat. Rather, it's a cool and almost minty feeling at the back of your throat, or even in your mouth. It might feel similar to sucking on a peppermint. It's also common for people to experience a bitter, sour, or acidic feeling in their throat.
Why Do I Have a Cold Feeling in My Throat?
If you have this cold sensation in your throat, then you're probably going out of your mind, searching online for what could possibly be causing that strange coldness in your throat. This symptom can be explained by a variety of conditions. The trick to uncovering the culprit is to determine whether you're also experiencing other symptoms associated with the following disorders:
Acid Reflux and GERD
- Symptoms include heartburn, discomfort after eating a large meal, a sore throat, coughing, difficulty swallowing, and a bitter or sour taste in your mouth.
Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR) or Silent Reflux
- Symptoms include earaches and ear infections, trouble gaining weight, having to clear your throat too frequently, and the feeling of a lump in your throat that won't go away.
- Symptoms include hyperawareness or hypersensitivity. Anxiety might also trigger your acid reflux.
When to Consult Your Doctor
A cold feeling in your throat does not necessarily warrant emergency care. However, if you also find yourself losing weight, having difficulty breathing, vomiting, yielding bloody stools or stools that are darker than usual, or needing to take OTC antacids too frequently, then it would be best to visit or call your doctor immediately.
Cold Feeling in Throat and Stomach Related to Acid Reflux and GERD
Perhaps you get up in the middle of the night suddenly awakened by a cough. Maybe you've felt like you were being choked in your sleep. Or you could be at work after your lunch break, and you experience this weird, cold feeling in your throat along with a stabbing sensation in your chest that just won't seem to go away.
If this happens occasionally, then you're probably just suffering from a case of indigestion. Perhaps you should've rested a while after eating before rushing back to work. However, if you've been having the same experience over a prolonged period, then chances are you're suffering from GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). Don't worry, you're not alone. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, approximately 20 percent of the population in the US has GERD.
Gastroenterologist Dr. Patrick Hyatt, MD says, "Acid reflux can lead to symptoms in the throat—most common is a sensation that there is a lump in the throat 'globus', a bitter taste in the back of the throat, or exacerbation of underlying sinus issues or pulmonary issues such as asthma."
What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux occurs when your stomach acid flows backward into your esophagus. The latter serves as the connective passage between your stomach and your throat. Imagine a ring-like muscle where the end of your esophagus and stomach meet. This is your lower esophageal sphincter. Normally, it should prevent any stomach contents from rising back into your esophagus.
The reverse flowing of acid happens when the sphincter muscle located in the lower esophageal area relaxes at the wrong moment. Another reason is that the muscle is weak. The untimely opening of this valve enables stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus. When this happens, you experience a burning feeling in your chest (heartburn) and other symptoms.
How Do I Know If I Have GERD?
How can you tell if you're suffering from GERD, or if you just need to slow the pace of your eating? When you experience acid reflux and heartburn at least two times a week and the backflow of acid causes significant irritation to your esophageal lining, that's when your physician would diagnose it as GERD. Even so, before a checkup, there are ways to know if the cold feeling in your throat is possibly from GERD. The next time you experience that unexplainable cold sensation, try looking for the presence of these other symptoms:
- Pain in the chest: You're having this because of all that acid splashing back into your esophagus. Stay calm. This doesn't mean you're having a heart attack.
- Regurgitation: Along with the cold feeling in your throat, you might experience a bitter or a sour taste in your mouth.
- Discomfort after mealtime: Does the cold sensation in your throat come after you've eaten a huge, fatty meal?
- Hoarseness: Some individuals suffering from GERD experience hoarseness in the throat and then dismiss it as part of the onset of a common cold. In GERD, however, the hoarseness is brought about by the leaking of the corrosive stomach acids into the vocal cords and thus, causing irritation.
- Unpleasant breath odor: This is due to the acid and regurgitating partially digested food contents.
- A sore throat: This symptom can easily be dismissed as a result of seasonal allergies or the common cold. In GERD, however, a sore throat results from the non-stop irritation brought about by the frequent contact between your stomach acid and your throat. So before you attribute the soreness of your throat to influenza, first check whether you've also developed other symptoms related to colds.
- Coughing: Coughing and wheezing aren't always due to respiratory causes. At times, it can also be caused by the abnormal presence of stomach acid in your lungs.
- Difficulty swallowing: The never-ending pattern of irritation, damage, and recovery can leave scars in your esophagus. This results in thick esophageal tissues which in turn, narrows your esophagus. This will cause difficulty in the passage of food.
- Choking: There may be times when the acid backflow reaches your throat and creates a sensation that's similar to choking. This and the cold feeling at the back of your throat may happen while you're sleeping.
When Should I See a Doctor for GERD?
- Consult with your doctor the next time you experience a cold feeling in the throat that is accompanied by any of the symptoms mentioned above.
- The early detection and treatment of GERD is important. Otherwise, it will lead to complications such as Esophagitis. The latter refers to the agonizing irritation of the esophagus, which can consequently lead to ulceration, bleeding, and scarring.
- Individuals who suffer from GERD without being diagnosed and treated may end up having Barrett's Esophagus, which affects about 700,000 adults in the United States. As previously mentioned, the regurgitated acid in your stomach wears away the tissues in the esophagus. Eventually, the tissues self-heal. However, the repeated cycle of erosion and repair causes changes in the newly regenerated cells. They become rather similar to intestinal cells. This change in the cellular structure puts the individual at risk of developing a fatal cancer called Esophageal Adenocarcinoma.
- Here are two more potential complications of GERD if left untreated:
- An ulcer in the esophagus that could cause bleeding
- You may develop a condition called esophageal stricture, which is caused by the formation of scar tissue and results in the narrowing of the esophagus. This may gradually lead to obstruction of the esophagus, preventing food and fluids from reaching the stomach.
What Lifestyle Changes Can I Make to Treat GERD Symptoms?
According to Dr. Hyatt, "the most important factor is to avoid eating a full meal later in the day (within three hours of bedtime) as this will increase the risk of nocturnal reflux and when the patient is lying in bed, acid exposure will be prolonged due to the lack of gravity to return acid back to the stomach."
Here are some other lifestyle changes you can make:
If you're overweight, exercise. That said, refrain from working out after meals. Give your body time to digest the food for a couple of hours or more.
- Have frequent meals consisting of small portions instead of three large ones per day to help minimize acid reflux.
- Drinking plenty of water will also aid in minimizing the symptoms.
- Stay away from foods that can trigger acid regurgitation and heartburn.
- Oranges and other citrus fruits
- Citrus juices
- Deep-fried food
- Greasy foods
- Salty foods
- Carbonated beverages
- Spicy foods
Note that different foods may trigger GERD in different individuals. If you're not eating any of the mentioned foods but still having a cold sensation in your throat, then keeping a food journal is advised. This way, you can easily track down the possible culprit for the coldness in your throat.
- Limit your intake of alcohol.
- Avoid putting too much spice in your recipes.
- If you're a coffee drinker, understand that even a cup of decaf can prompt acid reflux.
- If the cold feeling in your throat wakes you up at night, try elevating the head of your bed.However, don't do this by piling up pillows. Doing so will only place your head at an angle that will add more pressure to your stomach. Instead, use six-inch blocks beneath the bedposts at the upper part of your bed.
- Coolness in the throat associated with GERD is also frequently experienced by smokers. The irritants in tobacco weaken your lower esophageal sphincter so consider quitting this unhealthy habit.
What Are Some Natural Remedies to Help With GERD Symptoms?
If the cold feeling in your throat is really bothering you, there are certain natural remedies that you can take.
- Take a supplement of an extract of slippery elm.
- For centuries, this herb has been used to soothe inflammation and minimize swelling in tissues.
- It also helps to hasten the repair of damaged tissues.
- It has a thickening effect on the mucous lining. Hence, it creates a more powerful barrier against stomach acid.
- For some people, chewing a non-mint flavored gum helps get rid of the cool sensation associated with GERD.
- It works by forcing fluids back into the stomach.
- More than that, saliva is alkaline and therefore, it helps to neutralize the irritating stomach acids.
What Are Over-the-Counter and Traditional Treatment Options for GERD Symptoms?
Dr. Hyatt says, "Proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec or Nexium are the most commonly prescribed and most effective prescription medications provided for frequent symptoms. A trial of daily therapy for 2-4 weeks is typically recommended and as long as symptoms resolve, the sporadic use of medication for infrequent recurrent symptoms is appropriate."
Some chronic suffers may also take OTC antacids to help neutralize stomach acids or take an H2 blocker/inhibitor, like Pepcid, Tagamet, or Zantac. The last resort for GERD is surgery., which is done when the person has begun to suffer from esophagitis and other severe complications related to GERD.
Acid Reflux in Pregnant Women
Acid reflux is common in women who are pregnant. This means having a cool sensation at the back of your throat during pregnancy is perfectly fine. When it becomes too bothersome, talk to your OB about the possibility of taking OTC meds.
Cold Feeling in Throat Related to Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR) or Silent Reflux
What if you've been having a cold feeling in your throat without most of the major symptoms that accompany GERD? It could be that you're suffering from an entirely different condition which is called laryngopharyngeal reflux or LPR. In a lot of ways, LPR can be quite similar to GERD. That is, except for the presence of GERD's definitive symptom—heartburn. It is for this reason why LPR is also referred to as silent reflux.
Overall, there are two muscle sphincters at both ends of your esophagus. A malfunction in either of these sphincters causes the stomach acid to flow back up toward your pharynx (aka your throat) or your larynx (aka your voice box). The acid could flow even further back up to reach your nasal airways. The harsh stomach acid inevitably causes damage to the tissues of whichever areas it passes through. Unfortunately, the causes of LPR in adults are still unknown.
LPR occurs commonly in infants, but this normal since they spend most of their time lying down and their sphincters are not yet fully developed. Furthermore, their esophagus is so much shorter.
Symptoms of GERD Only
Symptoms of LPR Only
Symptoms of Both GERD and LPR
Struggle with gaining weight
A hoarseness in your voice
Trouble inhaling food
A barking cough that persists over a long period
Having to clear your throat too frequently
Earaches and ear infections
Fluid in the middle ear
A feeling that there's a lump in your throat that won't go away despite frequent swallowing
Excessive mucus in throat
When Should I See a Doctor for LPR/Silent Reflux?
- If the cold feeling in your throat is accompanied by any of the symptoms mentioned in the table above, consult your doctor.
- Your physician can make a diagnosis of LPR only after conducting a physical exam, gathering your medical history, and monitoring your pH or doing an endoscopic exam.
- When stomach acid continues to accumulate in your throat and in your voice box, it can bring about long-term damage.
- Scarring may occur.
- As in GERD, this places you at risk of developing cancer in the affected regions.
- Furthermore, silent reflux can worsen respiratory conditions like bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema.
What Are Some Lifestyle Changes I Can Make for My LPR Symptoms?
- Eat smaller and more frequent meals
- If you're a smoker and/or a drinker, consider dropping the bad habits.
- If necessary, lose weight.
- Minimize your consumption of all foods associated with GERD (see the list above for some of the most common foods).
- Avoid wearing clothing that's too tight around the waist area. Wear loose nightclothes when sleeping.
What Are the Treatment Options for LPR?
- Your physician might prescribe proton pump inhibitors, H2 blockers, or antacids depending on how similar your symptoms are to those of GERD's.
- You may also be prescribed some Prokinetic agents that help boost the forward motion of the gastrointestinal tract and improve the pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter.
- Sucralfate may be ordered by your doctor for the protection of damaged mucous membranes.
- Most sufferers of LPR notice improvements in their condition after doing some simple lifestyle changes. However, for recurring symptoms, surgery may be performed.
- One type of surgical operation done for the treatment of silent reflux is fundoplication.
- In this procedure, the upper area of the stomach is wrapped around the inferior area of the esophagus with the aim of creating a more powerful sphincter.
- Another laparoscopic procedure involves externally surrounding the lower esophagus with a ring of titanium beads so as to reinforce the sphincter.
- One type of surgical operation done for the treatment of silent reflux is fundoplication.
Cold Feeling in Throat Related to Anxiety
Is the Cold Sensation in My Throat All in My Head?
Experiencing a cold feeling in your throat doesn't always mean that the cause is physiological. The symptom may also be brought about by psychological causes. Anxiety has an effect on every single part of your body, including your esophagus. In anxiety, esophageal issues can either be actual or perceived. Sometimes, the problems in your esophagus and your throat are not really brought about by existing physical problems but are instead a product of perceptions dependent on the way your brain interprets information.
This doesn't mean that you're just imagining that cold feeling in your throat! The thing about anxiety is that whether these symptoms are real or imagined, they end up triggering a series of other somatic symptoms. In other words, your brain may be imagining that there's something wrong with your esophageal passageway and thus, a symptom such as a cold sensation in the throat is triggered.
Can Anxiety Trigger Acid Reflux or GERD?
- Some very real changes may be happening in your esophagus as a result of anxiety. This includes acid reflux.
- While anxiety does not bring about acid reflux per se, it does aggravate acid reflux symptoms.
- It could be that you're already suffering from a mild case of GERD but your current anxious state increases the volume of gastric acids and therefore, triggers more serious GERD symptoms.
- The more you feel your GERD symptoms, the more your anxiety increases. This means you end up triggering even more symptoms like an increase in heart rate and chest pain. And so the cycle goes on and on.
As previously stated, it is possible that the cold feeling in your throat isn't brought about by a real esophageal disturbance. Instead, it is merely caused by a perceived esophageal problem. How does this happen?
Individuals suffering from anxiety tend to be more sensitive to the things going on in their bodies. They notice every little thing and obsess on each less-than-pleasant sensation that they feel. What happens is that they get to sense things that they never would've noticed without anxiety.
Here's a clearer example: When a typical person eats, they don't think too much about the sensation of the food traveling down their gullet. On the other hand, the brain of a person suffering from anxiety will actually sense the food in the esophagus. It may feel like the morsels are stuck in there. There's nothing really wrong with their health, but they end up noticing this minimal discomfort and feeling it way more than they should.
Globus Pharyngeus is actually the name given to the sense that something is lodged in the throat. While there is no actual lump in the throat, it can cause people great discomfort and become annoying. This is also a condition associated with GERD, which can cause muscle spasms that trigger a feeling of an object caught in the throat.
A person suffering from anxiety will have a heightened consciousness of normal body movements. Breathing, for instance, is normally done unconsciously. However, a person with anxiety will feel as though they are breathing manually. They may feel that if they don't make an effort to inhale and exhale, his breathing will stop altogether. Likewise, an individual suffering from anxiety will experience problems in the throat like trouble swallowing their food or trouble keeping food down. In other words, stuff like this can happen if your brain hands over too much conscious control on what should've been automatic bodily functions.
Hypersensitivity and hyperawareness are not fatal. They don't really alter your state of health. They are merely the result of your body misapprehending things that are naturally occurring within you. The same goes for the cold feeling in your throat that you may experience persistently or even awaken you in your sleep. Even so, keep in mind that anxiety can weaken your immune system. Therefore, what might've begun as an imaginary somatic condition may turn into a full-blown physical illness.
How Can I Reduce My Anxiety and Get Rid of the Cold Sensation in My Throat?
The smartest thing to do would be to consult a doctor to rule out GERD and LPR. Only then can you be sure that the cold sensation at the back of your throat is merely brought about by anxiety.
- The next time you feel the coolness in your throat, stop whatever it is that you're doing and calm down.
- Perform deep breathing exercises.
- Mentally step back from the scenario and from a rational standpoint, analyze the situation that you're in. Ask yourself the following questions: Why am I anxious? Is my anxiety proportional to the situation?
- Another technique would be to mentally count from one to ten. When faced with a stressful situation, ask yourself: Is it something that I can control? If yes, concentrate on the solution. If not, let go.
Manage your expectations.
- Manage your expectations of life and of the people around you. Find someone you can trust and talk to. This could be a friend or a professional.
Find a relaxing activity.
- get a massage
- listen to soft music
Make some lifestyle changes.
- Minimize your intake of alcohol, caffeine, and stimulant drugs.
- Make sure that you get sufficient sleep.
- Stay fit through exercise and a balanced diet.
How Do I Figure out What's Triggering My Anxiety?
It is necessary that you pinpoint the causes of your anxiety. Start a journal. The next time you feel a cold feeling in your throat for no reason at all, write down what could've triggered it. By identifying potential stressors, you can modify your lifestyle so that you can either eliminate them from your life or minimize your exposure to them.
Now that you know all that you need to know about the cold feeling in your the throat, try answering the following question.
What should you not do when you feel a cold sensation in your throat?
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- "How Peppermint Tricks Us Into Feeling (Deliciously) Cold". Npr.org. Retrieved Jan. 23, 2017.