Natural Remedies for a Sore Throat

By

Chris Iliades, MD

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A sore throat is a common symptom with many potential causes. The most common are infections from viruses or bacteria. Viruses that cause a sore throat include cold viruses, the flu, and mononucleosis; streptococcus is a common bacteria culprit.

But these aren't the only ways to get a sore throat. Another common cause is a nasal allergy, or allergic rhinitis, from pollen, dust mites, animal dander, or mold. These can cause a stuffy nose and post-nasal drip. A stuffy nose makes you breathe dry air through your mouth, which can irritate your throat. Too much mucus dripping down the back of your throat (post nasal drip), especially at night, adds fuel to the sore throat fire. Additionally, stomach acid can travel up the esophagus and irritate the throat in people dealing with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). 

Natural Remedies to Soothe Your Sore Throat

You should see your doctor for a really severe sore throat, a sore throat that lasts for more than five to seven days, or a sore throat that has other symptoms with it, such as trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, high fever, swollen glands, joint pain, or rash.

However, unless you have a sore throat caused by a bacteria like strep, antibiotic medications won't help. For common sore throats caused by allergies (or cold and flu viruses), your doctor may recommend natural remedies. You can try these on your own for a mild sore throat, but if in doubt, always check with your doctor.

  • Gargle with warm salt water. Add one teaspoon of salt to an eight-ounce glass of warm water. You can do this frequently to relieve soreness and break up dry mucus in your throat.

  • Drink lots of clear fluids to thin out the mucus and help you stay hydrated. Water and warm broth work best. Avoid alcohol.

  • Soothe your sore throat with a throat lozenge. Lozenges that contain eucalyptus may help soreness and cough. Lozenges that contain menthol may help soreness and nasal congestion. Because of the danger of choking, don't give a throat lozenge to a very young child.

  • Sip some tea and honey. One study found that honey taken at bedtime did a better job of calming a cough than over-the-counter cough syrup. Warm tea works the same as warm broth to break up mucus, but some types of tea may be especially soothing for a sore throat. These include chamomile, sage, and blackberry.

  • Try a nasal wash solution if your sore throat is caused by nasal congestion or post-nasal drip. Combine two cups of warm water, a teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of baking soda. Be sure to use boiled, filtered, sterilized or distilled water instead of tap or well water. While leaning over your sink, place some of the solution in the cup of your hand and very gently sniff it through each nostril, one at a time. Let the liquid run out through your mouth. You can also buy a neti pot for this purpose.

  • Use a humidifier in your bedroom while you sleep to prevent a sore throat caused by breathing dry air into your throat at night. Follow cleaning directions for your humidifier carefully to keep mold spores from developing in the unit.

Key Takeaways

  • A sore throat can be caused by an allergy or other conditions.

  • Antibiotics will not help a sore throat unless it's due to a bacterial infection.

  • Natural remedies that increase fluid intake, soothe the throat, open nasal passages, and loosen up dry mucus can help.

  • Call your doctor for a severe sore throat, a sore throat that last more than five to seven days, or a sore throat accompanied by symptoms like fever, swollen glands, joint pain, or rash
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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 19, 2017

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Medical References

  1. Sore Throat. American Academy of Family Physicians. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/sore-throat.printerview.all.html
  2. Sore Throats. American Academy of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/soreThroats.cfm
  3. Proper Humidifier Care. National Jewish. http://www.nationaljewish.org/healthinfo/conditions/allergy/allergens/mold/humidifier-care/
  4. Pharyngitis. University of Maryland Medical Center. http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/pharyngitis-000129.htm
  5. Allergic Rhinitis: Treatment. University of Maryland Medical Center. http://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/what_general_guidelines_treating_allergic_rhinitis_000077_7.ht...