Most throat spray brands direct you to spray once directly to the back of your throat. You usually let throat spray stay in place for a short time before spitting it out. How often you can use it depends on the brand.

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Sore throat symptoms can make it hard to speak or swallow. Even a minor sore throat can cause pain, scratchiness, and irritation that interferes with day-to-day life.

Over-the-counter sore throat remedies, like throat spray, can provide comforting relief. But figuring out how to use throat spray effectively can be confusing.

Throat sprays won’t cure your sore throat but can temporarily relieve symptoms. In this article, we’ll explain how throat spray works and provide information on how to use it.

Even though throat sprays don’t require a prescription, you should only use them according to package directions. Accidental overuse of throat spray is common but should be avoided, especially if you’re treating a young child.

Different brands may have slightly different directions, so checking the directions on the label is important. But generally, you can follow these steps:

  1. Check the dosing amount before use.
  2. Take the cap off the spray nozzle. Ensure the nozzle opening is clean and free of product residue.
  3. Spray the product toward the back of your throat as many times as directed (usually once or twice).
  4. Either gargle or allow the throat spray to stay in place for 15–60 seconds or according to package directions.
  5. Spit out the excess amount.

Active ingredients in throat spray

Throat sprays typically contain topical anesthetics, like phenol or dyclonine hydrochloride, that numb your throat.

They also often contain soothing ingredients, like glycerin, that coat your throat, protecting it from further irritation.

Some throat sprays also contain antiseptic agents, like povidone-iodine (iodopovidone), that kill microorganisms like bacteria. Antiseptics are not the same as antibiotics. If you have a bacterial infection, see a healthcare professional for treatment.

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Throat sprays are intended to provide fast relief from discomfort.

You may feel a numbing sensation within 15–30 seconds after applying throat spray to the affected area. In general, you can expect to feel a significant reduction in symptoms, like pain and scratchiness, within 5–10 minutes.

Symptom relief from throat spray is temporary and varies between brands.

The numbing sensation caused by throat spray should last for around 2 hours. If you’re dehydrated, you may feel your symptoms return more quickly. Drinking fluids like warm tea or cool water can help you maintain symptom relief for longer periods.

It’s possible, or even likely, that your symptoms will return before it’s time to respray your throat. Even so, it’s important to only use this product according to a healthcare professional’s instructions or the manufacturer’s directions.

You can typically use throat spray once every 2 hours up to four times daily. Many products are not intended for use for longer than 2 days without a healthcare professional’s approval.

The most common side effect of throat spray is mild to severe irritation in the mouth or throat. You may also feel a mild tingling sensation.

If you feel uncomfortable after using throat spray, discontinue its use and let a healthcare professional know.

It’s possible to be allergic to ingredients like phenol or dyclonine. If you know or suspect you’re allergic to these substances, don’t use a throat spray that contains them. Allergic reactions to throat spray can cause symptoms such as:

  • itchy rash or hives
  • swelling of the face, throat, lips, or tongue
  • blisters
  • wheezing
  • tight feeling in the throat or chest
  • trouble breathing or swallowing
  • hoarseness

If you’re pregnant or nursing, experts recommend consulting a healthcare professional before using throat spray.

Many throat sprays are not meant for use in children under 12 years old, though some allow for use in children as young as 3 years old. Don’t use throat spray on the gums to numb teething pain in your infant. Make sure you read the label instructions before use.

Some throat sprays contain benzocaine. According to the Food and Drug Association (FDA), overuse or misuse of benzocaine in people of any age may cause methemoglobinemia, a rare but potentially life threatening condition.

If your symptoms worsen or persist for more than 7 days, stop using throat spray and see a healthcare professional. You may have a condition that requires prescription medication or other types of treatment.

Can you swallow throat spray?

Throat spray is not meant to be swallowed, but don’t panic if a small amount accidentally trickles down your throat. Swallowing more than indicated may cause mild stomachache or other gastric symptoms.

Many throat sprays taste like cherry or mint. Make sure to keep these products out of reach of children. Drinking throat spray can cause an overdose or accidental poisoning. If this occurs, seek immediate medical help or call Poison Control at 800-222-1222.

Do you spit out throat spray?

Yes. After gargling throat spray, you should spit it out.

Should I drink water after throat spray?

Try to wait several minutes after using throat spray before you drink water. This will give the product time to work and eliminate the possibility of accidental digestion.

Hydration during illness is important, but you may also wish to avoid eating or drinking while your throat is numb.

When should I use throat spray?

Your symptoms may feel worse when you first wake up in the morning. Using throat spray at that time may be a good idea.

You may also benefit from using throat spray right before bed if your symptoms make it hard to fall asleep.

Keep in mind that throat sprays aren’t cures. Don’t rely on throat spray if you have a high fever, swollen tonsils, a rash, or other troubling symptoms. Instead, see a healthcare professional for treatment.

Can I use throat spray for tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is an infection usually due to a virus or bacteria. You can use throat spray to help your throat feel more comfortable, but it won’t cure tonsillitis.

Throat spray is an over-the-counter, at-home remedy that can help reduce sore throat symptoms. These products are usually safe when used as directed.

Some throat sprays are not appropriate for use in young children. You may also want to consult a healthcare professional before using throat spray if you’re pregnant or nursing.