How to Soothe Your Sore Throat

When you get a sore throat, the most likely cause is an infection from a virus like a cold or the flu. It usually goes away on its own in 3-7 days. But that doesn't mean you've got to put up with that scratchy, raw feeling. Try these tactics to get some relief.

How You Treat It

Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.Acetaminophen or NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen and naproxen can take the edge off many cold symptoms, including your sore throat. Make sure you follow the directions on the label.

If you have other medical problems or take other meds, check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter drugs.

Deal with your nasal symptoms. Mucus from your sinuses can drain into your throat, adding to its soreness. If you have a runny nose or you're stuffed up, an over-the-counter decongestant or antihistamine may help.

If hay fever is causing the drip of mucus into your throat, allergy treatments will ease your soreness, too.

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Try a throat spray. Over-the-counter versions of these "numbing" products can help. Herbal sprays with echinacea and sage may also make you feel better.

Take zinc. If you have a cold, some studies show that you can ease symptoms if you take zinc lozenges every 2 hours. They seem to work best if you start to use them within 48 hours after you get sick.

Gargle with salt water. Swish warm, salty water in the back of your throat a few times a day to bring down swelling and ease pain. Dissolve 1/4 teaspoon in 1/2 cup of warm water.

Keep Your Throat Moist

Sip plenty of liquids to stay hydrated. Warm drinks -- not hot ones -- can soothe your throat. Try broth or herbal tea with honey or lemon. Caffeinated drinks like coffee or soda may dehydrate you, so skip them.

Suck on a throat lozenge, crushed ice, ice pop, or a piece of hard candy to get your saliva flowing. Try a peppermint, since its main ingredient, menthol, thins mucus and helps break up it up.

Your Surroundings

Use a cool-mist humidifier at night. The added moisture in your bedroom will keep the air, your nose, and your throat from getting too dry.

Stay away from tobacco smoke. It can irritate the lining of your throat and make pain worse, even if you breathe in another smoker's fumes.

When to See Your Doctor

Give him a call if:

  • Your sore throat is severe or lasts longer than a week.
  • You have a fever of 101 F or higher.
  • You have trouble breathing or swallowing. This could be an emergency.
  • There's blood in your saliva or phlegm.
  • You have jaw or ear pain.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on May 15, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery: "Sore Throats."

National Institutes of Health, News In Health: "Soothing a Sore Throat."

Mount Sinai Hospital: "Sore Throat."

University of Maryland Medical Center: "Peppermint."

Mossad, S. Annals of Internal Medicine, 1996.

WholeHealth Chicago: The Center for Integrative Medicine.

Thomas, M. British Journal of General Practice, October 2000.

Schapowal, A. European Journal of Medical Research, 2009.

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