Think colds are just reserved for the wintertime? Think again. And no matter the weather outside, a scratchy, red, irritated throat is never welcome. Sore throats can cause pain when swallowing, or even talking. An inflamed throat, or pharynx, is sometimes referred to as pharyngitis. Sore throats are often accompanied by other symptoms of an illness, such as a runny nose or cough.
What is Causing Your Sore Throat?
It’s important to know why your throat is sore in order to properly treat it. Viruses, including the common cold, often cause throat soreness. Sore throats can also be caused by bacteria, as is the case with strep throat. Some additional causes of sore throat include allergies, smoking, or tonsillitis.
When to See a Doctor
If your sore throat is strep throat, you’ll need antibiotics to recover. Signs of strep throat include white patches inside the throat, severe pain in the throat, swollen glands, an upset stomach, and a high fever. 1 If you experience any of these symptoms along with a sore throat, it’s time to visit your doctor.
Viral sore throats will not benefit from antibiotics. They normally go away on their own within one to two weeks. 2 In the meantime, try these seven tips to help you feel better.
1. Keep Your Throat Moist
When your throat is sore, dryness can irritate it further. This is why you feel the effects the most when you wake up, as you breathe heavily while you sleep without drinking a single drop of water. Keep your throat moist by drinking hot fluids, such as broth and tea. Stay away from excessive caffeine and alcohol, which can dehydrate your body. Lozenges can help your throat stay moist when you’re not drinking liquids.
2. Gargle With Salt Water
Gargling with warm salt water has been used as a sore throat remedy for hundreds of years. It’s also recommended by doctors, because it is convenient and can temporarily ease throat pain. 3 Mix ¼ -½ teaspoon of salt into an eight-ounce glass of warm water, then use this mixture to gargle. Repeat as often as you like for relief.
3. Soothe With Honey
Honey is a popular folk remedy that has been proven to work. A study by Pennsylvania State University found that honey before bedtime was an effective cough suppressant in children. 4 Drinking tea with honey is a great way to soothe your throat. It’s important to note that honey should never be given to infants under one year of age because of the risk of botulism.
4. Herbal Help: Geranium Root Extract
An extract from South African geranium root, pelargonium sidoides, has been shown to effectively treat the common cold. In a 2007 study, 103 people with cold symptoms took liquid preparations of pelargonium sidoides three times per day.The herbal treatment significantly reduced the severity and symptoms of the common cold, including sore throats. 5 Pelargonium sidoides is an ingredient in some over-the-counter cold medicines.
5. Ease Soreness with Licorice Root
Licorice root is an herbal remedy with a long history of use in folk remedies, particularly traditional Chinese medicine. A 2009 study examined the effects of licorice root on patients with postoperative sore throat associated with endotracheal tube use. The study found that gargling with licorice water before surgery led to less incidence of sore throat after surgery. 6
Note that some medications can negatively interact with licorice root. Consult your doctor if you are taking prescription medicines or have a health condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease.7
6. Garlic: Yes, Garlic
If your sore throat is caused by a cold, garlic may help you get better faster. A 2001 study of 146 volunteers found that taking a garlic supplement daily for 12 weeks reduced both the number and duration of colds. 8 Garlic contains allicin, an organic compound which has been found to have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. 9
Raw garlic is best for sore throats. To try this remedy, peel a clove of garlic and cut it in half. Put half in each side of your mouth and suck on the clove pieces, swallowing the juices. The garlic will taste spicy, but many people report that this method effectively treats sore throat pain. Raw garlic added to food or taken as a supplement may also help to soothe your sore throat.
7. Spray the Pain Away: Sage and Echinacea
Sage and echinacea are both common medicinal herbs. A study conducted in Switzerland found that a throat spray made from sage and echinacea effectively treated sore throats for study participants. 10
Commercial sprays containing sage and echinacea are available in health food stores. You can also make your own by adding dried sage leaves and echinacea roots to boiling water. Allow the mixture to steep for about 30 minutes, then strain. After the mixture has cooled down, you can add it to a small spray bottle, or use it to gargle.
Sore throats are no fun. While they usually aren’t serious, having a sore throat can ruin your day. Try these seven tips to soothe your throat and get back to your life.
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