There are many reasons for experiencing symptoms of a sore throat. Sore throats can be felt for a few minutes and go away, or they can persist for days. Sore throats make us irritable. The throat can feel irritated, scratchy, or downright painful. However, there are many home remedies that will help ease a sore throat before a cause is discovered.
Sore throats can be transitory or last for days or weeks.
Sore throats can be a result of minor irritation or inflammation or be a sign of other causes such as infection.
Home remedies for sore throats are proven, safe, and effective in alleviating many mild or moderate symptoms.
Persistent sore throats or those associated with other symptoms such as fever warrant further medical evaluation and possible treatment.
Sore throats can be a result of infection, typically viral or bacterial such as Strep, inflammation, allergy, trauma, toxins, or even malignancy. A sore throat can be caused by something we eat or drink, heartburn, a symptom of a cold infection, or discomfort from our teeth or gums.
It is important to understand that not every sore throat is serious enough to warrant seeing a healthcare provider. Fortunately, there are ways to treat a sore throat at home.
What are some home remedies to alleviate a sore throat?
There are remedies already available in your kitchen pantry or medicine cabinet. No matter what the cause of the sore throat is, most, if not all of these methods will help to some extent.
If the sore throat persists or other symptoms develop such as fever or worsening difficulties breathing or swallowing, then it is imperative to seek medical attention.
Hot or cold liquids
Either hot or cold liquids may be beneficial. Trial and error is the best method. Hot or warm liquids may include classic suggestions such as hot tea or chicken soup or broth. Chamomile tea seems to be preferred along with lemon juice. Clove and green tea are believed to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory characteristics.
Many herbal teas help soothe the throat. Peppermint tea can provide some numbing of the back of the throat. Be aware that many teas contain caffeine which can cause nervousness.
Lemon juice is thought to boost the immune properties of chicken soup, so add it just before serving to avoid bitterness. Chicken soup isn't an old wives’ tale; studies have shown it can help reduce inflammation, including a sore throat. Cold or frozen liquids can include popsicles or crushed ice. Staying hydrated is also important.
Saltwater or baking soda
Gargling with salt water or baking soda can help break up the mucus, resolve the potential pH imbalance, and neutralize any acid reflux from the esophagus. Baking soda solutions are particularly helpful if there is severe discomfort, and the recommendation is to do this three to four times a day. The formula is to stir one teaspoon of salt or baking soda into one cup of water.
Be aware that many over-the-counter types of mouthwash may be too harsh to use with a sore throat. Occasionally, a small amount of hydrogen peroxide mixed with water can be soothing.
Throat lozenges and cough drops
Anything that stimulates saliva is going to be beneficial for sore throat symptoms. Keeping the mouth and throat moist will ease any pain. Lemon drops or lemon-flavored drops can produce an abundance of extra saliva and can help even with patients who have poorly functioning salivary glands from dehydration or other causes.
Ibuprofen or acetaminophen are good options for the reduction of sore throat discomfort. They are useful if there is associated fever or chills with body aches. It is important to remember that children under 18 years of age should not receive aspirin because they are at risk of Reye’s syndrome, which can be fatal. Also, children under two years of age should not be given acetaminophen.
Caution should be taken in taking antihistamines instead of or in addition to analgesics. Antihistamines may improve nasal congestion and post-nasal drip, but they can work against you in drying out your throat and increasing the sore throat symptoms.
A sore throat may be a result of nasal or throat dryness. Humidification is a key mechanism for improving dryness. It can be achieved by using a room humidifier or steam from a shower or hot soup or tea as already described.
Pictures of people leaning over a bowl of hot water, while wearing a towel over their heads may seem old-fashioned and ridiculous, but the method can be very effective. Sometimes, there is no other better way to concentrate the steam better.
Rest and head elevation
Rest may be one of the most overlooked remedies. Sometimes our bodies rebel against our being exhausted or our need for sleep and rejuvenation.
When you try to sleep, elevating your head can help. If at all possible, try sleeping on your side, as lying on your back may worsen any throat swelling.
Over-the-counter throat sprays
Some of these sprays may provide relief but be aware that the relief is usually temporary. The sprays are not a treatment but rather a means of neutralizing the discomfort. Caution should be taken in using these sprays in children under two years of age. Also, these sprays can alter the ability to swallow and there is a risk of choking.
Even more home remedies
Your grandmother may have recommended other home remedies, many of which can be found in commercially-made cough remedies.
This can be mixed with water for gargling. Licorice root tea may also be helpful.
Sage and echinacea
Some claim sage and echinacea to be as effective as over-the-counter throat sprays because they can break up mucus and soothe sore throats.
Peppermint can be effective. It is even recommended by the American Cancer Society for the relief of sore throats.
This refers to an herbal preparation containing dry ivy leaf extract as the main ingredient along with thyme, aniseed, and marshmallow root. There have been studies that suggest that the mixture is helpful for reducing sore throat and cough.
Hot sauce and Cayenne pepper
One teaspoon of Cayenne pepper mixed with a cup of water has been used for sore throats. Opposite to the expected result, it can act as a natural analgesic or pain reliever after the initial jolt of spice. Peppers can have a lot of vitamin C and are high in capsaicin, which is believed to fight infection.
What supposed remedies should I avoid?
Apple cider vinegar
This may be as uncomfortable or worse than hot pepper sauce. Although there are some studies that may show that apple cider vinegar may act as an antimicrobial, it is more likely to work on symptoms of cough rather than a sore throat.
Nutmeg, bergamot, and cypress all contain camphene, which has an earthy scent that is reminiscent of needles from pine trees. Most of us are more familiar with it being described as camphor oil, which is supposed to have a cooling effect on the throat. Unfortunately, none of these formulations have been sufficiently studied for safety or effectiveness and should be avoided.