Home Remedies for Sore Throat

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Dry or scratchy throat? A sore throat, which is called pharyngitis, occurs when your throat feels itchy, painful, irritated, inflamed, or dry.

You may also experience strain in your voice, a runny nose, a cough, or a fever, depending on the cause of your sore throat. Common causes of sore throats are bacterial or viral infections, but smoking or allergies can sometimes cause a sore throat.

If you have a sore throat, you may be wondering what you can do to alleviate your symptoms. Here is what you need to know about the potential causes of a sore throat including what you can do to find relief.

Causes of Sore Throat

A variety of diagnoses can cause a sore throat, and some are treated more easily than others. Here are some common causes of a sore throat.

Cold or Flu (Viral Infection)

The cold and flu are both viral infections that can affect your throat. Antibiotics do not work on this type of infection, but viruses usually clear on their own after a week.

A cough, runny nose, or strained voice often indicates a viral infection, such as a cold or flu. Pink eye (conjunctivitis) can also point to a viral infection. Both the influenza virus and COVID-19 can be diagnosed with a nasal swab. 

Allergies

Allergies can irritate your throat, especially prevalent ones like an allergy to pets, mold, pollen, or dust mites. If you are breathing in many of these allergens, they can also cause a postnasal drip, where mucus begins to drain down your throat.

The mucus in your throat can cause inflammation and pain. Often, this type of sore throat is seasonal but can also be caused by a buildup of allergens in your home. If you are worried about allergens in your home, you should clean your floors and surfaces and change your bedsheets. 

Strep Throat (Bacterial Infection)

Strep throat is an infection in your throat caused by bacteria. Doctors often prescribe antibiotics to help your body fight the bacteria if needed.

Strep throat is a quick onset of sore throat, pain when swallowing, fever, irritated tonsils, pus on tonsils, swollen lymph nodes, and red spots on the roof of your mouth. Rarely, strep throat can also cause a rash known as scarlet fever or scarlatina. 

Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis occurs when your tonsils become infected and inflamed, which can be dangerous if they begin to block your throat. To check for tonsillitis, open your mouth and look to the back of your mouth toward your throat. You should see two tonsils in the upper corners. If they are especially large or irritated-looking, you should see a healthcare provider immediately.

If your tonsils do not get better after taking antibiotics or otherwise trying to lower inflammation, your doctor may recommend removing them via surgery. This surgery is relatively common.

Mono (Viral Infection)

Mononucleosis, often just called mono, is another viral infection that can cause a sore throat. Mono lasts for about a month before usually clearing on its own. Like other viral infections, mono cannot be treated with antibiotics.

Mono can make it difficult to swallow, so it is essential to get the nutrients and hydration you need. If you cannot do that, you should see a healthcare provider so they can determine whether or not you need other interventions to ensure you are staying hydrated as well as getting the nutrients you need.

Home Remedies for Sore Throat

Home remedies are accessible ways to lessen your symptoms at home and work well alongside your doctor’s treatments. Here are some of the best home remedies for a sore throat. 

Drink Warm Liquids

Drinking warm liquids can help to soothe your throat and keep it moist. A few examples of warm liquids would be peppermint tea, tomato soup, chicken broth, or even just warm water with bouillion mixed into it.

Unfortunately, there are no studies to prove that warm liquids will lessen your symptoms, but it is often recommended to try for those with a sore throat. Further, registered dietician Maggie Michalczyk recommends adding a spoonful of honey to help ease inflammation in your throat if you have tea. 

Try Cough Drops

Throat lozenges, also known as cough drops, can help ease your symptoms. They are used to numb the throat slightly, allowing you to go about your day with less coughing or discomfort. A study found that cough drops containing either lidocaine or hexylresorcinol helped provide rapid relief from pharyngitis.

However, the numbness in your throat will only last up to 15 minutes. Therefore, despite feeling quick relief from your symptoms, it is only temporary.

Gargle Salt Water

Research has shown that gargling salt water reduces the severity and duration of sore throat. One study found that nasal irrigation alongside gargling was effective, especially if you have nasal symptoms. Gargling salt water is a simple task to do at home.

First, heat some water and dissolve salt into it. Then, wait for the water to cool and gargle it. When you are done, spit it out into your sink. You should not swallow it because it is designed to wash the germs out of your throat.

Use Numbing Throat Spray

A numbing throat spray has the same effect as a lozenge but with longer-lasting results. Throat sprays ease your symptoms by numbing your throat. This may make it easier to eat and drink while experiencing a more severe sore throat.

A study has shown that throat sprays made with chlorhexidine, lidocaine, echinacea, or sage as the active ingredient were all equally helpful in reducing symptoms. Echinacea or sage make good natural alternatives if you prefer not to use lidocaine or chlorhexidine.

Try Popsicles

Popsicles are recommended instead of lozenges for children who have sore throats. Even so, there is no reason that adults cannot have popsicles too. Popsicles work similarly to lozenges by numbing your throat. However, this is more like an ice pack.

You are numbing your throat by making it cold. If you are lactose intolerant, some fruit-based popsicles work just as well. Alternatively, if you have sensitive teeth or do not like popsicles, you can also just drink ice cold water. To avoid the water touching your teeth, use a straw. 

Get Plenty of Sleep

Studies have theorized that a lack of sleep can make you susceptible to the common cold. For this reason, try to rest when feeling under the weather. By doing this, you are allowing your body to heal.

Trying to move around and get everything done will only put extra strain on your body and stress on your mind. Instead, focus on resting and recovering. It is easy to feel like you have to get things done, but remind yourself that your symptoms will likely be short-lived and you will be feeling better sooner. 

Stay Hydrated

According to emergency room physician Jay Woody, MD, FACEP, ABEM, chief medical officer of Intuitive Health and a co-founder of Legacy ER & Urgent Care, you should stay hydrated when you are sick. While feeling ill, your body expends a lot of fluids through vomiting, diarrhea, urinating, and even sweating.

Keeping hydrated helps replenish those fluids and can also help your throat feel less dry. In addition to drinking water, Dr. Woody also recommends using a humidifier. If you do not have one, you can try boiling water on the stove to add moisture to the air. 

When to Call a Healthcare Provider

Contact a healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:

  • Have trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Have blood in your phlegm or saliva
  • Severe throat pain
  • Severe lethargy or difficulty sleeping
  • A fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Rashes on your body
  • Pain in your ears
  • Body aches or cough

A Word From Verywell

While home remedies may help relieve symptoms, they are not replacements for a healthcare provider's diagnosis and treatment. Consult a medical professional first before using any home remedies. They can help you ensure that the remedies are right for you and that they will not interact with your medications or interfere with any specialized diets.

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8 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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