How you handle a dry throat depends on what's causing it. For most people, dry throat is probably a temporary symptom causes by a cold or flu virus, and it will go away once the illness goes away. If your dry throat persists or is bothersome, though, especially if it seems unrelated to a viral illness, see your doctor for advice.
When the Cause Is Cold or Flu
One of the earliest cold or flu symptoms, even before a full-fledged sore throat sets in, is a dry or scratchy throat. If a viral illness is causing your dry throat, it generally just needs to run its course, and the dryness will go away once you're better. In the meantime, drinking plenty of liquids can help ease the feeling of dryness, as can throat lozenges, hard candy or chewing gum. Most viruses go away in a week or 2. If you are still feeling under the weather after 10 to 14 days, contact your doctor for advice.
Other Causes of Dry Throat
A dry throat can have many other -- but less likely -- causes as well, which usually accompany other bothersome symptoms. For example, a dry and irritated throat that comes with a persistent dry cough might be a symptom of asthma; gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD; or even cancer. If your dry throat is accompanied by a dry mouth, there could be many possible causes, including a medication, chemotherapy or radiation side effect; diabetes; certain autoimmune conditions; or human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome -- also known as HIV/AIDS. To soothe your dry mouth and throat, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research recommends similar measures: hard candy, sugarless gum and sugar-free drinks. They also recommend avoiding caffeine and tobacco. If you suspect your dry throat has a more serious cause than a viral illness, a doctor's diagnosis will help guide you toward the best treatments.