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Persistent Throat Clearing and Blood: What is the Cause?

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 10 Dec 2014 | comments*Discuss
Stress Anxiety Post-nasal Drip Throat


I have been with my partner for 2 years now. Since we have been together, she has had a problem with her throat. Every morning she has to clear her throat, sometimes making her vomit. This continues throughout the day but is worse first thing in the morning. She has been to many doctors and all seem to find nothing wrong. She has brought up blood on a couple of occasions.

Surely there has to be something wrong - I don't know anyone else who has this problem? It would be a great help if you could advise us what action we can take to stop this.

(A.B, 9 July 2009)


Firstly, you should both be reassured that the investigation by doctors found nothing wrong – this indicates that this is not a serious physical health problem. However, it must be distressing for both of you and there are several things that you could try.

It could be that the problem is a psychological one that is related to stress and anxiety. You mention that your partner has had this problem for at least two years – she could try thinking about when it began and whether she was under particular stress at that stage. There might have been a physical cause initially – a heavy cold, followed by a post-nasal drip – but the underlying stress may then have caused the throat clearing to become a habit that she now cannot break.

The feeling of having something in the throat is a common sign of anxiety. The urge to clear the throat becomes overwhelming, causing local trauma to the delicate tissues in the throat that then become inflamed, causing a greater urge to clear the throat. The bleeding indicates the force with which you partner is trying to clear what she feels and the vomiting probably arises because of the stimulation of the back of the throat, causing the gag reflex.

Taking some steps to deal with stress may help and it will certainly do no harm and you could initiate a program of stress reduction together. Exercise taken regularly is a great stress buster and you could take up some exercise you could do together – cycling, walking, jogging, swimming, going to a gym – something that gives you at least 30 minutes of sustained exercise five times each week. Choose something that you both would find fun, as this is an important part of relaxation too.

You could also try some relaxation techniques – try to find a class, maybe a yoga class – or buy a DVD or CD and practice the relaxations sessions together. Completely relaxing, with controlled breathing exercises can help at any time of day but your partner might find it useful to get up half an hour earlier and try to start the day as calmly as possible. This may help her to start gradually and consciously resisting the urge to clear her throat to start breaking the cycle.

It would also be a good idea to see if she has any obvious allergies that could be causing an increase in mucus in her airways – does she have hayfever, dust mite allergy, cat or dog allergy? Perhaps completely cleaning and decorating your room and getting a new mattress and bedding might be an idea. And you could also try a bedroom ionizer – there is not a great deal of scientific evidence of their benefits but many people with hayfever swear by them, particularly at night.

Try some of these self-help techniques for another six months but if the problem continues, or it gets much worse in the meantime, you should go back to a doctor and insist on more tests.

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@Dee - I'm afraid we can't advice in general health matters - it is something your GP would have to look into.
ThroatProblems - 10-Dec-14 @ 2:38 PM
My 15 year old son has a visible lump under his chin which grows and shrinks and is usually painless and antibiotic treatments have not worked what could this be?
dee - 10-Dec-14 @ 12:13 AM
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