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5 ways to soothe a sore throat

5 ways to soothe a sore throat
LifeScience1 min read
Sore throats are common but you can soothe the pain easily enough.seb_ra/Getty Images
  • Gargling with warm salt water can reduce swelling and pain from a sore throat.
  • You should also drink plenty of water to lubricate your throat and prevent it from getting irritated.
  • Chamomile tea with honey in it can also provide relief.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Omid Mehdizadeh, MD, otolaryngologist and laryngologist at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute's Pacific Eye, Ear & Skull Base Center at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA

About 13 million people visit the doctor each year with a sore throat.

Roughly one in ten cases of sore throat are caused by a bacterial infection, like strep throat, which will need to be treated with antibiotics. But most of the time, a sore throat is caused by a virus like the flu or the common cold and there is no cure except to wait for it to pass.

Here are five simple remedies you can use to help soothe your sore throat while waiting for your symptoms to clear up.

Gargle with saltwater

Gargle with saltwater
Gargling with saltwater can help kill bacteria.      Yagi-Studio/Getty Images

Gargling with salt water is one effective way to soothe a painful sore throat.

The Mayo Clinic recommends mixing ½ teaspoon of salt with one cup of warm water and gargling it in the back of your throat. When treating kids, it's best to wait until they reach age 6 to make sure they are able to spit out the mixture and don't accidentally swallow it.

There is not much research on whether saltwater gargles can actually kill germs in the throat, however, the salt can help reduce swelling and pain. And one 2013 study found that gargling salt water can help prevent respiratory infections.

Take pain relievers

Take pain relievers
Pain relievers like ibuprofen can help bring down inflammation      Grace Cary / Getty Images

Pain-relieving medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help ease the pain and swelling that come with a sore throat.

This is because pain relievers stop your body from producing inflammatory agents called prostaglandins, says Jonathan M. Lee, MD, a professor of head and neck surgery at the University of Pennsylvania.

If you are caring for a child 6 months old or younger, experts recommend avoiding ibuprofen and sticking to acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol.

Stay hydrated

Stay hydrated
Drinking water can prevent your throat from getting sore from dryness.      d3sign/Getty Images

Another vital step to treating a sore throat is to drink as many fluids as possible.

"When you are sick you are more likely to become dehydrated," says Lee. This is because your body produces more mucus and fevers may cause you to sweat, both of which drain water from your body.

Staying hydrated can help your body produce more saliva, which can lubricate your throat and keep it from getting dry and irritated. "Drinking plenty of fluids, warm or cold, ensures your body can carry out all its functions effectively," Lee says

In particular, drinking warm fluids can help soothe the back of your throat and cut down on coughing. Some good options for warm liquids are broth and non-caffeinated herbal tea, Lee says.

Cold liquids, like popsicles and ice chips are also helpful, says Lee, as they can temporarily numb any sharp pain in your throat.

Try some honey

Try some honey
Chamomile tea with honey is a great way to soothe your throat.      Tara Higgins Hill/Getty Images

Adding honey to tea can provide extra relief for a sore throat. A 2017 study found that people who swallowed a tablespoon of honey twice a day along with their usual sore throat treatments had a faster recovery and fewer symptoms.

You may want to mix chamomile tea with honey, as chamomile has also been shown to soothe sore throats.

Breathe in humidity

Breathe in humidity
You can add a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide or vapor rub to the water in your humidifier.      puhimec/Getty Images

Breathing in dry air can irritate your throat and make a sore throat feel even worse. If you are sick with a sore throat, it can help to run a humidifier in your home to help keep the air moist.

For extra soothing relief, you can also try adding a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide or vapor rub to the water in your humidifier. Hydrogen peroxide can help fight off bacteria and vapor rubs generally contain menthol, which can have a cooling and soothing effect on your throat.

If you don't have a humidifier, you can also run the shower with hot water to fill your bathroom with steam. Sitting in steam for a few minutes can help loosen mucus and soothe pain in your throat.

When to see your doctor

When to see your doctor
If you have a fever, cal your doctor.      Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

There are a few telltale signs to look for to determine if something more serious is going on.

"If your throat pain is severe, lasts longer than a week, or is associated with high fever, swallowing or breathing problems, please consult your doctor," Lee says.

If you think you have a bacterial infection like strep throat, it's important to see a doctor to get antibiotics. But if you have a viral infection like a cold or the flu, the best option is to wait it out at home by taking pain relievers, using soothing methods, and drinking plenty of fluids.


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