Help for Sore Throats

Written by Kimberly Holland | Published on September 13, 2013
Medically Reviewed by George T. Krucik, MD, MBA on September 13, 2013

girl with sore throat

No More Scratchy Throat

You’ve likely experienced the symptoms of a sore throat in your lifetime. Itching, scratching, and burning are not fun, especially if they’re accompanied by other symptoms of a cold or a more serious virus. Sore throats can be downright miserable, but there is good news. You can find relief, and you don’t need to run to your doctor (in most cases) to find it. Here are eight ways to feel better when a sore throat sets in. 

Gargle with Salt Water

Gargle with warm salt water. It works. The salt pulls the mucous out of your swollen, inflamed tissue and helps relieve the discomfort of a sore throat.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you should combine one teaspoon of table salt with eight ounces of warm water. Stir until the salt dissolves, then gargle with it for several seconds. Spit it out, and repeat the salt gargle several times each day. 

Use a Lozenge

Some over-the-counter throat lozenges contain menthol, an ingredient that can gently numb the tissue in your throat. This can provide you with temporary relief from the burning and pain. In a pinch, peppermint candies can do the same. Candy and cough drops increase your saliva production and help keep your throat lubricated. However, the benefits from candy and cough drops won’t last as long or be as effective as medicated lozenges, and you may find yourself needing relief again soon. 

Avoid giving lozenges or cough drops to young children, though. Both are a choking hazard. 

Try OTC Pain Relief

According to the Centers for Disease Control, viruses cause most sore throats. Viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics. Instead, the virus has to run its course in your body.

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines, such as Advil or Aleve, can actually reduce inflammation and swelling in your throat. They can also reduce the pain you experience, which makes them ideal if you need some sore-throat relief. 

Enjoy a Drop of Honey

Warm tea sweetened with honey can help soothe your irritated throat. Tea also keeps you hydrated, which is another important step in treating a sore throat. Brew up a cup next time a sore throat starts to tickle. 

Honey has another benefit when you’re sick. Research shows honey is an effective cough suppressant, even when compared to prescription cough medication.

Other warm fluids, including soup, can also help you find some relief. Just make sure all the food and drinks are warm, not hot. Hot tea or hot soup may actually burn your already-sensitive throat and make the problem worse. 

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is an important part of treating a sore throat. When you’re dehydrated, your body can’t produce enough saliva and mucus to keep your throat naturally lubricated. This will make the swelling and inflammation worse. When you have a sore throat, you need even more fluids to help ease the pain. If you get dehydrated, you’re creating a bigger problem.

Water is great, as are warm teas or warm soups. Really, any drink will do as long as you drink often. 

Use a Humidifier

Breathing in moist air can help soothe swollen tissue in your nose and throat. A humidifier is a great way to increase the humidity in your room. You can buy humidifiers at most retailers. The machine slowly adds moisture to your room, and when you breathe in the humid air, you’ll help relieve dryness. Over time, this relief will ease the discomfort in your throat. However, be careful not to get the air in your room too damp.

Give Yourself a Steam Shower

If you don’t have a humidifier, you can still get relief from moist air. Steam inhalation from a shower or sink filled with hot water can help reduce swelling and ease the pain of a sore throat. 

While in a warm shower, take deep breaths. You can also create steam relief by running very hot water in a sink. Drape a towel over your head and lean into the sink to breathe in the steam. Keep taking deep breaths for several minutes, and repeat this as necessary to ease your sore throat. 

Pop a Pill

Viruses cause most sore throats, but bacteria, such as streptococcus, which causes strep throat, may be the cause of a sore throat. An antibiotic can help get rid of the bacteria and provide relief. If your sore throat isn’t gone within a week, or if it gets worse and leads to a fever, you may need a prescription. 

If you are prescribed an antibiotic, be sure to complete the entire dose. Do not stop the medicine, even if the symptoms disappear and you begin to feel better. Without taking the full course of medicine, you may relapse with an even worse sore throat.

See a Doctor if Necessary

You don’t have to suffer a sore throat. Plenty of over-the-counter and home-treatment remedies can help you find relief when the pain and discomfort from a sore throat takes hold.

Still, it’s important to remember that not every sore throat will go away on its own. If you experience severe pain when swallowing, develop a high fever, or begin vomiting or feeling nauseous, you may want to make an appointment with your doctor. Your sore throat may actually be a sign of a bigger problem.

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