We are vulnerable to a million different types of microbes all through different seasons. Many of the microbial infections are communicable but easy to fend off if you take care of your immunity and general health. One such condition that is associated with various infections and seems to linger all through the year is a sore throat. Sore throat does not depend on season, it can attack you anytime in the year even though it is more likely to strike during winters. Almost all individuals suffer from a sore throat at least once in their lifetime while many suffer from it once every year.

Sore throat, as the name suggests, is a constant painful, scratchy and irritating feeling in the throat leaving you uneasy and uncomfortable. Truth is it is completely normal if you are having a sore throat because in most cases there is nothing serious to worry about. It is a self-limiting disease and normally you can return to fine fettle after 3 to 5 days only.

It may also be associated with low-grade fever, mild headache, difficulty in swallowing, runny nose and cough.

The causative agent behind sore throat is usually virus responsible for cold and flu but it could also be a manifestation of pharyngitis (inflammation of the pharynx). Sometimes a sore throat may be of bacterial origin like from a Streptococcus infection. This type of sore throat is called strep throat. Strep throat has more severe manifestation.

But the question remains: How exactly should one deal with the pain and discomfort? In this article, you will be knowing all the effective ways to get rid of a sore throat at home and how to be sure that it's time to leave self-care and seek doctors consultation. Let's dive in quickly.

  1. Home remedies for sore throat
  2. Other alternatives for sore throat
  3. When to see a doctor for sore throat

A sore throat can be really discomforting to deal with and usually demands soothing of the mucous membrane of the throat to ease the pain and itching. This can be done by using some home remedies or over the counter medicines. The choice is yours as both have their respective advantages and flaws. 

Once you rule out an underlying condition and are sure that your sore throat is nothing more than a seasonal discomfort, you can easily get rid of it by using some simple ingredients available in your kitchen. Let’s take a look at the available remedies in the comfort of your house.

Salt water gargle for sore throat

Salt water gargle is probably the first remedy that comes to mind while talking about a sore throat. It does not need specific preparation or ingredients and does not even take much time to use. So, if you are too lazy to prepare any remedy at least you can gargle with salt water. It may be the easiest remedy but it doesn’t lack in effectiveness. Warm water soothes the swollen and irritated mucosa and salt reduces the inflammation by pulling water out of the swollen tissues (simple osmosis) along with killing the microorganisms.

The only thing you need to do is to mix ¼ to a ½ teaspoon of salt in 120 to 250 ml of lukewarm water. Take an adequate amount of water in your mouth as per your oral capacity and squash it in and around the mouth for a few seconds then spit the water out. Gargle several times a day until your throat feels relaxed.

Honey and lemon water for sore throat

You might have heard about the weight loss benefits of a honey lemon preparation but do you know it also works wonders in soothing a sore throat? In fact, every bit of this mixture is as good as any cough syrup or medicine you can get.

Honey is loaded with goodness and health benefits. It has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Studies have proven that consumption of honey when you're having a sore throat along with cough, reduces mucus production, thereby easing the congestion and discomfort.

Adding lemon to honey water will double the benefits of the concoction. This citrus fruit is rich in various bioactive compounds like limonene and linalool. These compounds provide it with efficient anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcerogenic, antimicrobial and immunomodulatory effects. Not only does it reduces swelling and itchiness associated with a sore throat but also it helps suppress the growth of infectious bacteria.

To make this invigorating mixture, follow these steps:

Ingredients:

  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon honey
  • 1 cup of warm water

Procedure:

  • Put both the ingredients into a cup of warm water
  • Mix it well, and drink slowly by taking small sips
  • For best results, consume this mixture at least 2 to 3 times per day

Apple cider vinegar for sore throat

Apple cider vinegar is derived from apple cider by the process of fermentation. This specific type of vinegar has the ability to clear your throat and give you the relief you are craving for. To soothe a sore throat, it can be consumed or gargled in the form of a diluted solution. Apple cider vinegar is widely used for treating several other serious ailments as well. It is believed that consumption of vinegar will bring down your blood pressure tool. However, for relief from a sore throat, you can use this vinegar in the following way:

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • ½ teaspoon honey or lemon (optional)

Procedure:

  • 1st method: Take 1 cup of warm water, add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to it.Gargle with this solution a few times a day to get the expected relief
  • 2nd  method: Prepare a mixture by adding 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, a ½ teaspoon of honey and lemon to 1 cup of water. Drink the blend to soothe your throat mucosa

Clove for sore throat

Clove is a common spice that can be easily found in every household. It has a warm and aromatic fragrance that makes it an important part of several sweet and savoury dishes. If you too love to infuse your daily tea with clove buds, you may be glad to know that it has the ability to ease an irritated throat. This property of clove is attributed to its eugenol content. Eugenol act as a potential pain reliever in addition to its antiseptic, antibacterial and antiviral properties. So, it is not just helpful in reducing your discomfort but also it helps in suppressing the growth of infectious bacteria in your throat, getting rid of the problem from its root.

To make the best use of clove to get rid of sore throat, do as recommended.

Ingredients:

  • Few buds of cloves Or Clove oil
  • 1 cup of water
  • ½ tablespoon honey

Procedure:

1st method:

  • Add few clove buds to water and bring it to boil
  • Let it boil for a few minutes
  • Add honey to the infused water and drink it slowly

2nd method:

Another way to use clove is gargling with clove oil. 

  • Add a few drops of clove oil to warm water and gargle with this
  • Repeat this a few times a day to get rid of sore throat

Adequate hydration relieves sore throat

You must be aware of the importance of water for an individual to survive. After all, 70 percent of our body is water! But usually, when people fall sick, they tend to drink less water, which just makes it harder for the body to fight illness. Have you ever noticed when you wake up in the morning with a sore throat, it hurts more than usual? The basic reason behind this is the drying up of your throat overnight. Drinking lots of water while you are having an infection tends to aid in clearing away microbial growth quickly. In case of a sore throat, water soothes itching and inflammation that is responsible for all your pain and discomfort.

Interestingly, throat candies and lozenges for cold or cough also work by stimulating your salivary production in order to keep your throat moist. So why not opt for water instead? It definitely comes with the added advantage of detoxification and improved health.

(Read more: How much water should you drink in a day)

Echinacea and sage spray for sore throat

Echinacea purpurea is a medicinal plant, commonly used to treat upper respiratory tract infections. This herb has anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory properties along with antiviral and antibacterial properties. It works remarkably when it comes to relieving your sore throat problems.

Another herb having similar properties is sage, Salvia officinalis. Bioactive ingredients of this medicinal herb have anti-inflammatory (reduces swelling), antibacterial, antiviral, antinociceptive (reduces pain) and astringent properties. This herb is also widely used in traditional systems of medicine to treat upper respiratory tract infections and sore throat.

A study in the European Journal of Medical Research demonstrates equivalent efficacy of echinacea and sage spray when compared to chlorhexidine or lidocaine spray.

Extracts of both of these plants are available in the form of a spray. so you can certainly opt for this method of treatment to combat a recurrent sore throat.

Some of you might get so irritated by a sore throat that you don't even want to try any of the home remedies. Well, it’s totally alright. Here are some of the other alternatives for sore throat that you can easily grab in order to get rid of sore throat.

Lozenges for sore throat

Sure sore throat is an extremely uncomfortable condition but you can make it a little bit enjoyable by sucking on throat lozenges and candies. A number of lozenges are available in the market to relieve an itchy and painful throat, you can choose one as per your liking or make one at home with some honey, ginger, lemon juice and water. Most lozenges contain certain beneficial compounds to soothe your throat mucosa. Moreover, they stimulate salivary glands to produce more saliva to provide you with ultimate relief. However, young children should not be motivated to suck candies for sore throat as they might choke on them.

Humidifier for sore throat

Use of cold mist vaporizer and humidifier can also alleviate the pain caused by the dry throat. These are devices that help maintain adequate humidity in a particular area preventing your mucous membranes from getting irritated by dry weather. Humidifiers are especially helpful in extreme cold or dry weather when humidity levels fall below comfort levels. For additional benefits and relief, you can add chlorhexidine to the humidifier. Chlorhexidine is widely used to treat sore throat as it has antiseptic properties. It is also available in the form of throat sprays and mouthwash.

Even with all of the benefits, most humidifiers may come out to be a bit costly and hard to maintain. They need to be properly cleaned and dried between uses so as to avoid the spread of microbes in the air the next time you use it. Also, they can be really hard to keep clean at times and don't really have any adjustments to avoid excess humidity so you need to keep a constant check on the humidity levels around you and switch them on or off accordingly.

Furthermore, It is best to use demineralised water since tap water contains minerals which can form a layer on the surface of the humidifier and further increase the risk of pathogen spread or allergies.

Even with all the useful home remedies, sometimes it is best to approach your doctor for an expert diagnosis. There are certain conditions or few symptoms that need to be encountered as soon as possible under an expert’s supervision and advise. That's the reason they are present for. See a doctor if:

  • Your soreness does not go away even after a week
  • You are having very high fever along with sore throat
  • You lymph nodes are swollen
  • You are developing rashes inside your mouth or even outside
  • You are having difficulty while breathing

References

  1. healthdirect Australia. Sore throat (pharyngitis). Australian government: Department of Health
  2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Sore Throat
  3. Satomura K et al. Prevention of upper respiratory tract infections by gargling: a randomized trial. Am J Prev Med. 2005 Nov;29(4):302-7. PMID: 16242593
  4. Moyad MA et al. Conventional and alternative medical advice for cold and flu prevention: what should be recommended and what should be avoided?. Urol Nurs. 2009 Nov-Dec;29(6):455-8. PMID: 20088240
  5. Ran D. Goldman. Honey for treatment of cough in children . Can Fam Physician. 2014 Dec; 60(12): 1107–1110. PMID: 25642485
  6. Raquel Kummer et al. Evaluation of Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Citrus latifolia Tanaka Essential Oil and Limonene in Experimental Mouse Models . Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 859083. PMID: 23762165
  7. Sara A. Quandt et al. Home Remedy Use Among African American and White Older Adults . J Natl Med Assoc. 2015 Jun; 107(2): 121–129. PMID: 26543255
  8. National Institutes of Health; [Internet]. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; Soothing a Sore Throat.
  9. Michael Ashu Agbor, Sudeshni Naidoo. Ethnomedicinal Plants Used by Traditional Healers to Treat Oral Health Problems in Cameroon . Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015; 2015: 649832. PMID: 26495020
  10. A Schapowal et al. Echinacea/sage or chlorhexidine/lidocaine for treating acute sore throats: a randomized double-blind trial . Eur J Med Res. 2009; 14(9): 406–412. PMID: 19748859
  11. Agency for Health Care Administration. Pharyngitis - sore throat. State of Florida [Internet]
  12. National Health Service [Internet]. UK; Sore throat.
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