How to treat a sore throat


A sore throat can be uncomfortable and often indicates an impending cold. While home remedies can help some types of sore throats, it is important to note that treatment may be necessary. For example, a sore throat due to strep throat usually requires treatment with antibiotics to prevent serious complications.

Treating a medical condition on your own and not taking or delaying standard medical care can have serious consequences. Certain conditions and symptoms (such as shortness of breath) are urgently needed.

Be sure to talk to your doctor if your sore throat is very painful, lasts more than a few days, or if you have other symptoms .

Get Medication Information / Brianna Gilmartin

Home remedies

Most sore throats go away within a couple of days. Here are some natural remedies and care tips that can help ease your pain.

Salt water rinse

One of the oldest home remedies for a sore throat, it can help relieve pain, break down mucus, and reduce swelling. Usually 1/2 teaspoon of salt is dissolved in a glass of warm water. After rinsing, the saline solution should be spit out and should not be swallowed or reused. Sometimes for a sore throat it is recommended to gargle once an hour.


Avoid dehydration by drinking fluids. Some people may find relief from drinking hot liquids, while others may prefer cold liquids, which can help soothe inflamed tissues. Avoid hot liquids, as they can make a sore throat worse.

Water is always a good option, but there are two other options you can consider:

  • Warm Lemon Drink: Mix 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar , 1 very small pinch of cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon of honey, and 1/4 teaspoon of grated ginger (optional) in a glass of warm water .
    The benefits of this folk remedy have yet to be studied, but some say that capsaicin (a compound in cayenne pepper) blocks nerves from sending pain signals, and the acid in lemon juice or vinegar creates a hostile environment for germs. Note: Cayenne pepper and vinegar can worsen pain and cause burns or irritation of the mouth and throat when consumed alone or in large amounts.
  • Tea : A cup of warm (not hot) black tea can ease a sore throat. Black tea ( Camellia sinensis ) contains compounds called tannins, which are astringent and can help shrink inflamed tissues. Some also brew double strength black tea and gargle with it several times a day.


Honey can help suppress coughs and ease discomfort by covering the throat, temporarily relieving irritation.

A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that people who consumed honey before bed coughed less frequently and excessively and were less likely to lose sleep due to coughing than those who did not drink honey. (Two teaspoons are recommended before bedtime).

Add a little to a warm drink or taste directly with the spoon. In no case should honey be given to children under 1 year of age due to the risk of botulism.

Cold food or applications

Some find relief by sucking on popsicles or ice cream. If you have swollen glands in your neck, applying an ice pack may also help.


Since dry air can cause a sore throat, a humidifier can help bring moisture back. Hot and cold mist humidifiers are effective. However, for use with children, it is best to use a cold mist to avoid hot water spills. You can also customize your thermostat. For some people, a warmer room can cause dryness, which can dry out and irritate the throat.

OTC Treatments

You can use over-the-counter pain relievers for a sore throat. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen tend to have the highest efficacy / safety ratio. If you're taking blood thinners like Coumadin, or have liver problems, peptic ulcer, or kidney disease, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about what might be best.

Children older than 3 years and adults can use a throat spray for pain relief, such as Chloraseptic . The product instructions say that it should not be used for more than two days.

You can also use pain relievers or cough medicine or throat lozenges. For example, Cepacol Extra Strength lozenges can be used by children 5 to 6 years (depending on taste) or older and adults. They have menthol and benzocaine, which interfere with nerve receptors.

Cough suppressants such as Robitussin can be used by children 6 years of age and older and by adults to relieve a sore throat.

If your sore throat is caused by allergies and postnasal fluid discharge , you can try over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl or Claritin. They reduce the production of mucus during an allergy attack.

For a sore throat caused by acid reflux, try an antacid for short-term relief. You can find them in chewable, liquid, and tablet forms. Long-term over-the-counter medications include H2 blockers like Zantac and Pepcid and proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec and Prevacid 24HR. This reduces gastric acid production.


While the above may help relieve a sore throat, you will need more to get rid of it completely if the cause requires your own treatment.

Depending on your diagnosis, these recipes may be helpful.

Antibiotics for bacterial infections.

Strep throat and scarlet fever require prescription antibiotics to treat the infection and prevent potentially serious complications, including rheumatism and kidney damage .

Typically, a 5-10 day course of penicillin, amoxicillin, or erythromycin is prescribed. Fortunately , relief usually occurs within 24 hours of treatment.

It is important that you complete your course of antibiotics to completely clear the infection and reduce the chances of recurring symptoms or resistant bacteria.

Antibiotics may also be prescribed for other types of bacterial infections that can cause a sore throat . Although these medications do not cure viral infections, they may be prescribed if your healthcare provider believes that you are at risk of developing a bacterial infection other than a known viral infection.

Corticosteroids for adults with severe sore throat

A single dose of oral corticosteroids can be used when an adult has a severe sore throat. This therapy is not intended for children.

Local anesthesia for herpangin

Children can have herpangina caused by the Coxsackie virus or echovirus, which causes sores with blisters in the back of the throat. They rarely have severe pain. If they do, your doctor may prescribe a local anesthetic that contains benzocaine or xylocaine.

Herpetic sore throat.

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

Allergy medications

If you have a sore throat due to allergies, your healthcare provider may recommend prescription allergy medications or desensitizing therapy to control your allergy attacks.

Medications for acid reflux and GERD

For a sore throat caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), your doctor may control your condition with H2 blockers, which reduce acid production, and / or proton pump inhibitors, the less acid is produced in the stomach.

Narcotic pain relievers after throat surgery

If you have a sore throat from surgery , such as tonsillectomy, thyroidectomy, or intubation, your doctor may prescribe narcotic pain relievers.

Operations and procedures under the guidance of a specialist.

For a sore throat that leads to abscesses due to a bacterial infection behind the tonsils, the doctor may drain the pus with a needle. Sometimes your doctor may need to make a small incision in the tonsil or nearby tissue to drain the pus from the abscess.

Tonsil removal may be recommended for recurrent throat infections. or in the case of a severe abscess.

Tonsillectomy was a common surgical procedure for children with recurrent angina. However, it is now less common and is only done for chronic tonsillitis. In adults, this is done much less frequently. This is usually done on an outpatient basis and does not require an overnight stay in the hospital.

For a sore throat due to acid reflux, treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may include surgery if your symptoms do not improve as a result of lifestyle changes or medications.

Fundoplication is the most common surgery used to control acid reflux. This is a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure. In this operation, the upper part of the stomach is wrapped around the lower esophageal sphincter to tighten it and prevent acid reflux.

Another type of minimally invasive surgery is the implantation of a LINX ring device containing magnetic beads at the junction of the stomach with the esophagus. The magnetic attraction of the balls is strong enough to allow food to enter the stomach, but the lower esophageal sphincter remains closed to prevent acid reflux .

Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM)

Several traditional medicinal herbs have been used for sore throats. Keep in mind that while many of these home remedies have been used for generations, there is still no significant research on their efficacy and safety.


Sage ( Salvia officinalis ), used in Europe as a remedy for various throat ailments, has a number of compounds such as cineole, borneol, camphor, and thujone, as well as astringent properties that can help relieve a sore throat and reduce swelling and the inflammation.

Herbalists sometimes recommend sage tea or gargle by steeping 1 teaspoon of dried sage or 1 tablespoon of fresh sage leaves in 1 cup of boiling water. Cover with a lid for 10-15 minutes and then strain the leaves. Add honey and lemon if you like.

Research has shown that a spray of sage and echinacea every two hours (maximum 10 times a day for five days) relieves sore throat symptoms just as effectively as a medicated spray. Side effects included mild burning and a dry throat.

While it may provide some short-term relief, the safety of regular or long-term use of sage supplements is unknown. Pregnant and lactating women should avoid taking sage supplements.

Slippery elm

Native to North America, slippery elm is an herb that has long been used in herbal medicine to relieve a sore throat, dry cough, or laryngitis . Slippery elm is also found in some throat lozenges. When mixed with water, the inner bark of a slippery elm forms a thick gel (mucus) that coats and soothes the throat.

Herbalists generally recommend pouring 1 cup of boiling water over 1/2 teaspoon of the minced bark. Stir, let it sit, and then gargle when cool.


Licorice root ( Glycyrrhiza glabra ) has long been used as a sore throat remedy. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health (NCCIH), licorice root is sometimes used as a remedy for stomach ulcers, allergies , ulcers , and viral infections .

A study in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia found that patients who gargled licorice root solution five minutes before general anesthesia were less likely to have a sore throat after surgery and experienced less postoperative coughing than patients who did. gargle with water.

Licorice is a common ingredient in herbal teas, hard candies, and sore throat drops. It has a natural sweet taste.

Licorice in large amounts can lead to high blood pressure, salt and water retention, low potassium levels, and can affect levels of the hormone cortisol. It cannot be combined with diuretics, corticosteroids, or other medications that lower potassium levels in the body. People with heart disease or high blood pressure should avoid consuming licorice. Pregnant women should not take licorice.


Marshmallow , an herb native to North America and Europe, has been used as a home remedy for a sore throat for centuries. Like slippery elm, marshmallows contain mucus.

Herbalists recommend marshmallow root tea as a sore throat remedy. It is usually prepared by adding 1 tablespoon of dried root to a cup (8 ounces) of boiling water and soaking covered for 30 to 90 minutes before draining. Herbalists often recommend up to three cups a day for a sore throat.

If you have diabetes, check with your doctor before taking marshmallow as it can lower your blood sugar, especially when combined with diabetes medications.

Marshmallow can also slow the absorption of other medications taken at the same time. Zephyr should not be taken by pregnant or lactating women.

Frequently asked questions

  • Anything that is difficult to swallow can scratch a sore throat going down, such as foods with a dry or crunchy texture, such as pretzels or pretzels, or foods that are difficult to break down completely when chewed, such as meat. Stick to soup, ice cream, and other soft-textured foods that easily escape a sore throat until you feel better. It is also best not to smoke and stay away from people who smoke, as secondhand smoke can irritate a sore throat.

  • They can, but not always. Many spicy foods contain capsaicin, a compound in pepper that has been found to relieve certain types of pain. When used in moderation, hot sauce can help soothe a sore throat.

  • Depending on the cause of your sore throat and your doctor's recommendation, you have several safe options, including:

    • Tylenol (acetaminophen) : Do not exceed 3,000 milligrams (mg) in 24 hours.
    • Antihistamines – These can help if you have a runny nose due to a cold or allergy.
    • Benzocaine : A spray or lozenge containing this medicine may relieve a sore throat.
    • Chloraseptic : Also available as a spray or pill, which can relieve pain in this area.

    You should always check with your midwife before starting any medication during pregnancy.

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