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25 sore throat remedies By Augustine C.

Having a sore throat is a common occurrence that can happen anytime, but it’s especially prevalent in the winter. The common cold or flu aren’t the only reasons why you could develop a sore throat. Also called pharyngitis, a sore throat could be the result of an allergy, acid reflux, dry air, smoking, overusing your voice or vocal cords, or sleeping with your mouth open.

Viruses or bacteria could cause a sore throat. A bacterial infection such as strep throat may require antibiotic medication to relieve symptoms. A healthcare provider can swab the throat and test the culture to diagnose or rule out strep throat. 

On the other hand, a sore throat from a viral infection has to run its course, but it should go away fairly quickly with home remedies. Sore throat remedies such as a saltwater gargle, herbal tea, chicken soup, and steam baths are among the numerous ways to treat throat pain.

25 home remedies for sore throats

  1. Saltwater
  2. Baking soda
  3. Lemon juice and apple cider vinegar
  4. Hydrogen peroxide
  5. Mouthwash
  6. Licorice root
  7. Honey
  8. Ginger
  9. Chicken soup
  10. Camomile
  11. Slippery elm
  12. Fenugreek
  13. Marshmallow root
  14. Peppermint
  15. Hot toddies
  16. Popsicles
  17. Ice cream
  18. Ice chips
  19. Soft foods
  20. Hydration
  21. Osha
  22. Lozenges or hard candy
  23. Massaging lymph nodes
  24. Disinfect surroundings
  25. Humidify

1. Saltwater gargle

A warm saltwater gargle is an effective home remedy that you can easily add to your daily routine. The ratio of salt to water in a gargle solution can vary, but ½ teaspoon of salt to four ounces of warm water is a starting point. Saltwater can draw mucus out of the inflamed throat and reduce swelling. For maximum effectiveness, swish saltwater in the mouth and gurgle in the back of the throat every few hours.

2. Baking soda gargle

A gargle solution made with baking soda is an alternative to the traditional saltwater solution. Add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda to one cup of warm water and use this solution to cleanse the mouth and throat through gargling. To further health benefits, add ⅛ teaspoon of salt to the mixture. To soothe the throat and reduce mucus, swish, and gargle throughout the day. 

3. Lemon juice and apple cider vinegar gargle

To help reduce bacteria and soothe the throat, gargle a mixture of equal parts of lemon juice and warm water. If you don’t have any lemon juice, try one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to one cup of heated water to make a gentle natural gargle solution. 

RELATED: Does apple cider vinegar have health benefits?

4. Hydrogen peroxide gargle

Hydrogen peroxide can also kill bacteria in the throat and mouth that cause sore throats. One part hydrogen peroxide (3% concentration) added to two parts of water can be gargled and swished to encourage healing. Do not gargle for longer than 90 seconds. Be careful to never gargle swallow a hydrogen peroxide mixture, even if you use “food safe” hydrogen peroxide. 

5. Mouthwash gargle

Gargle mouthwash to kill and reduce bacteria in the mouth that could be causing a sore throat. While antibacterial mouthwash is less effective on sore throats caused by viruses, reducing harmful bacteria could still lead to a faster recovery.    

6. Licorice root gargle

A mixture made from licorice root and warm water is another effective gargling solution for sore throats and relieving congestion. Licorice root has pain-relieving properties and can help boost the immune system to fight viruses associated with respiratory illnesses. Licorice should not be used in those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.  

7. Honey

Commonly known for soothing sore throats, the consistency of honey can gently coat the throat for relief. Honey is also an antibacterial and can stimulate the body’s immune system. Raw honey increases antioxidants and can help fight infections that cause sore throats. Adding equal parts lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to honey can further increase health benefits. For fast relief, consume one tablespoon of this mixture every two hours or so.

Honey can be a popular sore throat home remedy for both kids and adults, but honey is not recommended for children younger than 2, and should never be given to children under the age of 1. Infant botulism caused by bacteria in honey can affect babies under 1 year old, but most families wait until 2 years old before introducing raw honey into a child’s diet, just to be safe. 

8. Ginger

A natural antihistamine and decongestant, ginger is effective in reducing congestion. Ginger ale, specifically the ones using real ginger, can break up excess mucus associated with respiratory conditions. As an antiviral and antibacterial, ginger can be drunk (as tea or ale) throughout the day for healing effects. 

9. Chicken soup

Besides being a comfort food when sick, eating warm chicken soup when you have a sore throat has numerous health benefits. Chicken soup contains proteins, antioxidants, and amino acids that aid the body’s ability to fight infection. High in magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin C, and vitamin A, chicken soup can naturally boost the immune system

Chicken broth, especially made with garlic, has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that reduce swelling and redness in the throat. Soup made from chicken can also reduce nasal congestion associated with a sore throat. Consuming broth can thin the mucus in the throat, making it easier to cough up. 

In addition to all of the other health benefits, chicken soup contains gelatin that can soothe the back of the throat. Drinking broth or eating soup while ill is both healing and hydrating. Staying hydrated and nourished when sick can prevent the illness from spreading. 

10. Camomile

Camomile tea is anti-inflammatory and an analgesic. This tea can naturally relax strained muscles in the throat as well as relax the body to encourage rest that will also aid in the healing process. Antioxidants found in camomile tea can boost the immune system. The astringent nature of chamomile tea is especially helpful in clearing the mucus from the throat and mucous membranes.

11. Slippery elm

When a sore throat needs soothing, slippery elm tea is a natural way to coat the back of the throat for relief. Boiling water can be poured over slippery elm bark powder then allow the tea to cool down enough to drink safely. “Throat Coat” tea by Traditional Medicines contains slippery elm and tastes similar to licorice. 

12. Fenugreek

Fenugreek tea is another option for healing a sore throat. It contains immune-boosting qualities such as magnesium, iron, and vitamin B-6. This sweet and nutty flavored tea is a natural pain reliever with antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Tea made from fenugreek can kill bacteria that cause throat irritation. 

13. Marshmallow root

Make marshmallow root tea by pouring boiling water over the dried root. You can drink it throughout the day. Marshmallow root is a natural analgesic with pain-relieving properties that can soothe and relieve an irritated throat. 

14. Peppermint

Another tea on the list for aiding a sore throat is peppermint tea. Peppermint is antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial. This herbal remedy also has a cooling effect because of the menthol in the tea leaf. Peppermint acts as a decongestant and can flush mucous membranes. Furthermore, peppermint essential oil can be diluted into a throat spray or mouthwash to promote healing. 

15. Hot toddies

Hot toddies aren’t just a wives’ tale—they actually have healing abilities. Whiskey naturally opens the blood vessels in the throat to increase blood flow to the infected area. Also, whiskey can thin and break up mucus in the throat. 

Hot toddies are often made with honey, another natural remedy for soothing and healing a sore throat. Other ingredients such as lemon juice, ginger, cinnamon, and even nutmeg can add flavor and health benefits to a hot toddy. These spices can stimulate the production of saliva that can break up mucus and improve hydration. 

16. Popsicles

The cooling effects of popsicles can be very soothing to a sore throat, especially for children. All-natural popsicles made from fruit or juice are the preferred choice over sugary ice pops dyed with food coloring. Eating popsicles can be hydrating, especially if drinking liquids is difficult. Avoid dairy-based popsicles as they could increase mucus production. 

17. Ice cream

As mentioned above, dairy can increase mucus production and worsen a sore throat. However, many non-dairy ice cream options are available like coconut milk, cashew and oat bases, or sorbets. Allow the ice cream to melt in the back of the throat to soothe and numb irritated tissue.

18. Ice chips

Another method for naturally numbing the throat includes sucking on ice. “Sucking on ice chips can help numb nerve receptors in the back of the throat and decrease swelling,” states Leann Poston, MD, the assistant dean at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine and a contributor for Ikon Health.

19. Soft foods

Avoiding hard foods can reduce throat irritation. Hard and dry crackers, chips, toast, and popcorn could be temporarily eliminated from the diet until the throat heals. Softer foods such as macaroni and cheese, oatmeal, yogurt, and mashed potatoes are more gentle to swallow. Applesauce and pureed fruits and smoothies are a great way to replenish the body while healing from a sore throat. 

20. Hydration

Again, staying hydrated and nourished is essential when ill. Apple juice and grape juice are high in vitamin C and easy to digest. Avoid citrus beverages such as orange juice and lemonade, as the acid content could irritate throat tissue. 

21. Osha

Traditionally used in Native American culture, osha is known for treating respiratory problems, including pneumonia, bronchitis, tonsillitis, coughs, colds, sinus congestion, and sore throat. Osha is a perennial plant with a root that can be used fresh or dried. The plant’s root can be chewed on directly, concocted into a tea, used as oil in a tincture, or powdered in a capsule. 

22. Lozenges and hard candy

Throat lozenges and hard candies can help ease sore throat pain. Sucking on a hard candy or cough drop increases saliva production. Cough drops come in many flavors such as honey, cherry, and cooling menthol. 

The additional saliva created when sucking on a lozenge lubricates and moistens the throat reducing dry irritation and soreness. Because of choking hazards, do not give cough drops to children younger than 6. Warm apple juice or ice pops may be an alternative solution for kids with a sore throat.

23. Massaging lymph nodes

Massaging the lymph nodes, also known as lymphatic drainage, can help remove the infection that contributes to a sore throat. The lymph nodes will be sensitive and tender to touch. Very gently, rub the swollen lymph nodes located on the side of the neck in a downward motion. This massage technique will help the body eliminate toxins and increase circulation for a more rapid recovery.  

24. Disinfect surroundings

If you have any infection (viral or bacterial) contributing to a sore throat or respiratory problem, you can manage the reduction of germs to which you are exposed. Simple tasks such as cleaning surfaces with antibacterial cleaner or wipes can significantly reduce the length of illness. Door knobs, phones, and commonly used surfaces such as countertops and sinks can be hosts for unwanted germs that could lead to reinfection or infection in your family members.

If it is cold and flu season, extra precautions to wash hands thoroughly and more often can also decrease the risk of becoming sick or spreading illness. If you have a sore throat, changing your pillowcase can reduce exposure to germs and bacteria living on bed linens. Also, if you have been sick, replacing your toothbrush is always a good idea because bacteria can live in the bristles that can cause you to be sick for longer. 

25. Humidify

A vaporizer or humidifier can be used in your home to add moisture to the air. The moistened air can be soothing to an irritated throat. To aid breathing while sleeping, elevate the head and use a humidifier in the bedroom, allowing it to run all night. Essential oils, such as peppermint or eucalyptus, can be added to many vaporizers to ease breathing and stimulate wellness. 

Like the humidifier, using steam is an effective method to move congestion and relieve a sore throat. If you do not have access to a steam room, you can run a hot shower, sit in the bathroom, and breathe in the steam. Or, boil water on the stove and position your face a safe distance away (eight to 12 inches) from the hot water with a towel draped overhead to direct the stream toward the nose and mouth. Inhale deeply (through the nose if possible) for several minutes. 

RELATED: How to stop coughing at night

Over-the-counter medications for sore throat

While natural remedies such as honey and saltwater gargle can be useful in treating a sore throat, over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications may be helpful or sometimes necessary for relieving some cases of sore throats. Products such as numbing throat sprays, lozenges, and cough syrups can help relieve an irritated throat.

Pain relievers

OTC pain medicine like acetaminophenibuprofen, or naproxen can relieve a sore throat. However, avoid giving children aspirin as it can lead to a serious side effect called Reye’s syndrome.

RELATED: Is it safe to take ibuprofen and Tylenol together?

Throat sprays

OTC throat sprays can help relieve the discomfort associated with a sore throat and kill germs that lead to infection. Commonly used to numb the soft tissue lining the throat, throat sprays come in various flavors with options such as alcohol-free, sugar-free, and aspirin-free. 

Throat sprays can target the affected area and work immediately. Anesthetic sprays such as Chloraseptic throat spray can be used every two hours as needed. Spray the anesthetic into the back of the mouth, allow to sit for 15 seconds or so, then spit out any remaining liquid. 

Safe and easy to use, Chloraseptic sprays have a low risk of side effects. Discontinue use if hives, itching, or irritation occurs. Furthermore, consult a healthcare provider before administering throat spray to children younger than 12. 

Another type of throat spray used to treat sore throats is Betadine. Betadine contains povidone-iodine to prevent or reduce infections that may occur in the throat. This type of antiseptic can kill germs, viruses, fungus, yeast, and even bacteria that cause strep throat. You can use this product every three to four hours at the first signs of a sore throat.

Lozenges

A throat lozenge can soothe and lubricate a dry, scratchy throat. Like throat sprays, lozenges are available in various flavors such as honey, lemon, menthol, and cherry. Using throat lozenges throughout the day can provide fast-acting relief. Ricola and Cepacol are among the popular choices of OTC brands of throat lozenges.  

Cough syrups

If a cough contributes to a sore throat, cough syrups can be part of the healing process. Cough syrups can suppress a cough so the throat and body can rest and heal. Helpful during the day or night, cough syrups can be soothing and reduce congestion associated with a cough that is causing a sore throat. Robitussin is a well-known brand of cough syrup. 

Prescription medication for sore throats

Antibiotics are needed if a bacterial infection causes a sore throat. If you are experiencing a fever, swollen lymph nodes, and the throat is extremely red and has white sores or puss, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication such as penicillin or amoxicillin to treat it.

Drug nameDrug classAdministration routeStandard dosageMost common side effects
AmoxicillinAntibioticsOral1000 mg daily or 500 mg every 12 hours for 10 daysNausea, vomiting, diarrhea, yeast infection, rash
PenicillinAntibioticsOral 500 mg every 12 hours for 10 daysNausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rash
AzithromycinAntibioticsOral500 mg once a day for 3 daysNausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, rash

RELATED: Compare more sore throat medications

When to see a healthcare provider for a sore throat

Most cases of sore throats are treatable with home remedies and OTC products, but you may need to consult a medical professional if your symptoms don’t go away or the condition worsens. 

For example, it could be time to contact a healthcare provider if you have a sore throat that doesn’t improve and pain spreads to the ear. Other symptoms such as high fever, difficulty breathing, coughing up blood, or having white patches in the back of the throat are additional reasons to seek medical attention. 

A sore throat is also a mild symptom of coronavirus (COVID-19)—a virus that may require medical attention. Always consult a healthcare professional when seeking sore throat relief for pregnant women or young children.

Treating a sore throat with home remedies as soon as the symptoms begin could prevent the need to see a healthcare provider and significantly reduce the time length of the illness. A combination of home remedies and OTC products could be the solution to a sore throat, but don’t hesitate to reach out for professional assistance to get the help you need.

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