Remedies for Sore Throat

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on March 21, 2024
5 min read

A sore throat happens when your pharynx, the back of your throat, becomes inflamed. Similar to the flu or common cold, the common sore throat is caused by a virus and usually goes away in a few days. Strep throat is caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus pyogenes and should be treated with antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.

In areas where the summers are warm and winters are cold, viral sore throats usually peak in the winter and early spring, when people are mostly inside. Viruses are spread by droplets in the air from sneezes and coughs. Viral sore throats go away on their own for most healthy people.

Other causes of sore throat include:

  • Acid reflux
  • Allergies to mold, dust, dander, and pollen
  • Dry indoor air
  • HIV
  • Irritants such as air pollution, chemicals, smoking, spicy foods, and drinking alcohol
  • Muscle strain from yelling or singing loudly for extended periods
  • Throat cancer

In adults, the most common symptom of a sore throat is throat pain. Other symptoms may include:

  • Aches and pains
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Hoarseness
  • Inflamed tonsils
  • Runny nose
  • Scratchiness
  • Swallowing difficulty
  • Swollen glands
  • Vomiting

A sore throat can also be a symptom of COVID-19, but it's not as common as a fever or cough. If you're having any symptoms of COVID-19 or have come in contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19, get tested and self-quarantine until you get the results.

Children with sore throats may also have:

  • Bloody phlegm
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Drooling
  • Joint pain or swelling
  • Rashes

There are many ways to treat and ease the symptoms of the common sore throat. Because it’s caused by a virus, antibiotics won't help. But they will help with strep throat, as that's caused by bacteria. For mild bouts of sore throat, you can try the following home remedies:

Rest and hydration

Get plenty of rest and sleep. You should drink a lot of fluids because they prevent dehydration and keep your throat moist. Stick to comforting beverages such as a simple broth, chicken soup, warm water, or caffeine-free tea. Avoid alcohol or any caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, because they can dehydrate you.

Over-the-counter pain relievers

Use a numbing throat spray or over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to keep you comfortable as you rest. If your sore throat is caused by allergies, take over-the-counter antihistamines to clear your nose and get rid of postnasal drip that may be irritating your throat.

Alternative medicine

Many alternative medicines such as herbal teas or lozenges can be bought over the counter. Still, you should check with your doctor before taking them to find out if there are any interactions with prescription medications or possible risks due to your medical history.

One study showed that an herbal tea made with licorice root, elm inner bark, and marshmallow root was more effective than a placebo tea for soothing sore throat pain in the short term. But after 30 minutes, the difference in pain relief between the two groups was not noticeable.

Gargling with salt water

Mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt with a cup (8 ounces) of warm water and gargle. Do this whenever your throat feels itchy or painful. By using salt, you’re pulling out fluids from your throat tissues, which helps wash the virus out. It may also loosen mucus that needs to come out.

Ice chips, popsicles, or lozenges

You can suck on ice chips or popsicles to ease the pain and coughing from a sore throat. Over-the-counter lozenges and cough drops are soothing as well. They often have menthol as an ingredient, which temporarily numbs the throat, reducing the need to cough.

Purified and humidified air

Use a humidifier in the room where you're resting. It will prevent dry air from irritating your sore throat. You can also sit in a steamy bathroom for several minutes at a time. An air purifier may help, as people with a sore throat should avoid airborne irritants such as cigarette smoke or some cleaning products.


Is honey good for sore throat? Definitely. Honey has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, and it's soothing, too. Mix a spoonful with a squeeze of lime or lemon as a sore throat remedy. Or, add it to a cup of caffeine-free or herbal tea in place of sugar.

You should see a doctor if you suspect you're dealing with strep throat, especially if you have the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the front of the neck
  • Pain and difficulty when swallowing
  • Red spots on the roof of your mouth
  • A sore throat that started quickly
  • Red and swollen tonsils

Your doctor can test you for strep throat by swabbing the back of your throat to collect a sample, which is then sent to a lab for testing. If a bacterial infection is causing your sore throat, your doctor will prescribe a 10-day course of antibiotics. It's important to take the full course of antibiotics even if you start to feel better within a few days.

Children can take many of the same remedies as adults. These include:

  • Sipping warm liquids
  • Eating ice chips or ice pops
  • Gargling with salt water
  • Sucking on throat lozenges (for kids aged 4 or older)
  • Taking children's ibuprofen or acetaminophen

Some over-the-counter medications are not recommended for children under certain ages. Always check the label.

Never give aspirin to a child. Only acetaminophen (children's Tylenol) should be given to kids under 6 months. For children aged 6 months or older, acetaminophen or ibuprofen are fine.

Don't give any cough or cold medicine to children under 4 years of age. For kids over 4, check with your child’s doctor to see if the medication is safe and what dosage is right for your child’s size and age.

Don't give honey to children under age 1. That's because a type of bacteria called Clostridium is sometimes found in honey and can produce toxins that lead to infant botulism.

Seek emergency care if you or your child are:

  • Having problems breathing or swallowing
  • In pain for more than a few days
  • Producing too much saliva, having trouble speaking, or unable to move the neck (particularly children)


Sore throats are usually caused by viruses (not bacteria), so antibiotics don't work on them. Sore throats usually go away after a few days. Sipping warm liquids, gargling with salt water, and sucking on throat lozenges can help soothe your throat.

What drink kills a sore throat fast?

Gargling with salt water stops the growth of bacteria and reduces throat inflammation. Dissolve a 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water.

How long do sore throats last?

Usually 4-5 days.