Sore throats are incredibly common. In fact, most of us will deal with it at least once a year. From spirited screaming for the CCU Chanticleers to catching a viral infection, there are many reasons why you may be dealing with a sore throat. While the problem is typically nothing serious, Dr. Miranda Horton with CMC Ear, Nose, and Throat knows that you still want relief from that raw, scratchy feeling.
“As an ENT doctor, I understand and have seen the discomfort that comes with a sore throat,” says Dr. Horton. “Whether it’s caused by a common cold, flu, or an infection, finding relief is essentially what you want. There are some pretty effective remedies that can help alleviate and calm the painful effect of a sore throat.”
Understanding the Sore Throat
Before delving into remedies, it’s crucial to understand the underlying causes of a sore throat. By doing so, you can better tailor your efforts for relief.
“A sore throat typically occurs due to inflammation in the pharynx, the part of the throat located behind the mouth and nasal cavity,” explains Dr. Horton. “Some of the most common causes are viral or bacterial infections, allergies, dry air, and excessive voice strain. Not every sore throat requires medical treatment. If you aren’t dealing with more serious symptoms and complications, then there are some simple yet practical solutions that you can do at home and see a pretty significant difference in your recovery.”
Home Remedies for Soothing a Sore Throat
1. Stay Hydrated
Drinking plenty of fluids is essential for relieving a sore throat. Hydration helps to keep the throat moist and can ease irritation. Opt for warm liquids such as herbal teas, warm water with honey, or soothing broths. Avoid caffeinated or sugary beverages as they may worsen the inflammation.
2. Saltwater Gargles
Gargling with warm salt water is a time-tested remedy for soothing a sore throat. Mix half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle for about 30 seconds before spitting it out. Repeat this every 3 hours as needed. Saltwater gargles can help reduce inflammation and remove irritants or bacteria, providing temporary relief.
3. Humidify the Air
Dry air can exacerbate a sore throat, especially during winter months or in arid climates. Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air in your room, helping to soothe your throat. If a humidifier is not available, taking hot showers or inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water can provide similar benefits. I love making hot tea with honey and breathing in the aromatic steam in between sips.
4. Over-the-counter (OTC) Pain Relievers
OTC pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help alleviate the discomfort associated with a sore throat. Lidocaine spray may also be used to numb the throat. Follow the recommended dosage instructions and consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have any concerns or existing medical conditions, such as liver or kidney disease.
5. Suck on Lozenges or Hard Candy
Sucking on lozenges or hard candy can stimulate saliva production and temporarily relieve a sore throat. Look for products containing ingredients like pectin, menthol, honey, or lemon, which provide additional soothing properties. However, be cautious with lozenges containing sugar, as excessive sugar intake can worsen the situation.
6. Rest your Voice
Excessive talking or shouting can strain the throat further, prolonging your recovery time. Whispering also strains your voice. Resting your voice and avoiding activities that put excessive strain on your vocal cords can help promote healing. As much as you want to scream-sing your favorite song in your car, don’t. If you can’t rest your voice completely, try to speak at a volume you would use to talk to someone who is at arm’s length.
7. Watch what you Eat
Some foods may irritate your throat, such as hard/crunchy or spicy foods. Stick to foods that soothe your throat, such as tea, soup, or popsicles.
When to See an ENT Doctor
Not all sore throats require assessment by a healthcare professional; however, some sore throats are more concerning than others. Dr. Horton highlighted some concerning symptoms that may indicate that you need more specialized care from an ENT specialist.
“If you’ve been coughing up blood, that can be indicative of an underlying lung condition such as bronchiectasis and therefore it is particularly important to get your sore throat checked out by a doctor,” urges Dr. Horton. “If you’ve been experiencing sore throats for more than two weeks or are having slurred speech, these symptoms should be investigated further by an ENT. We’re able to treat deeper issues like bacterial infections, strep throat, tonsillitis, vocal cord nodules and lesions, growths, and gland tumors that could be the root of or contributing to the soreness in your throat.”
Dr. Horton identified some other symptoms that may indicate that it’s time to call your ENT:
- White patches on the back of the throat
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Difficulty opening your mouth
- Swelling or lump of the head or neck
- Blood in your phlegm or saliva
- Sore throat that occurs frequently or lasts longer than a week
- Hoarseness lasting more than 2-3 weeks
Dr. Horton stressed that you should consult with your ENT doctor or primary healthcare provider if your symptoms persist, worsen, or are accompanied by additional concerning signs. Treatments for a sore throat depend greatly on the underlying cause of the condition and your doctor or an ENT specialist can provide a detailed diagnosis and recommend the most appropriate treatment based on your specific condition.
By implementing some of Dr. Miranda Horton’s remedies, you can effectively tackle a sore throat and expedite your recovery process. Remember, it’s essential to prioritize self-care and rest during this time to allow your body to heal. But if you notice your symptoms lingering, worsening, or new symptoms developing, be sure to seek professional medical attention.