How to treat a sore throat at home

Woman with sore throat

Sore throats are a pain. No one wants to cringe every time they swallow.

A common sore throat is caused by a viral infection and goes away eventually – but while you’re waiting, there are things you can do to relieve the pain.

The remedy is more than stocking your medicine cabinet with over-the-counter remedies that temporarily soothe the pain. There are other easy, affordable at-home remedies that people of all ages can use to relieve a sore throat using ingredients you likely already have in your pantry.

Home Remedies for Sore Throat for Adults

Soup broth - traditional soups might be hard on a sore throat, but a warm (not hot) broth can soothe the throat and go down easy.

Throat lozenges or cough drops - these stimulate saliva production which coats the throat and keeps it moist, easing sore throat pain on contact.

A saltwater gargle - mix one teaspoon of table salt with 8 ounces of warm water. Gargle the mixture for 15 to 30 seconds, then spit it out. Add one half-teaspoon baking soda with the saltwater to kill bacteria as well.

Tea with honey - combine the soothing capabilities of honey with the warmness of tea to ease your throat discomfort. Chamomile tea is preferred – one, for taste, and two, for it's astringent and anti-inflammatory properties. Add some lemon juice to your tea for an extra kick of vitamin C.

Ibuprofen or acetaminophen - these over-the-counter medications can reduce throat pain. Ask your doctor about these medications first if you have high blood pressure or any heart condition.

Licorice root - mixed with water to create a gargle solution, licorice root has been seen to soothe throats and reduce coughing – look into making licorice root tea!

Sage and Echinacea - according to one study, Echinacea/sage spray was just as effective at soothing a sore throat as traditional over-the-counter throat sprays. Seen as a bit more of a preventative supplement, echinacea (by itself) can still be useful in treating your cough from the inside out – helping break up mucousy coughs and is a remedy for sore throats and even a runny nose.

Marshmallow root - A 2005 study found that an herbal cough syrup containing marshmallow root was effective in treating coughs due to colds and bronchitis.

Apple cider vinegar - while not the most pleasant way, but a tablespoon can help. It contains acetic acids, which research shows are antimicrobial, meaning it kills pathogens that cause infections leading to cough.

Cayenne pepper - Just mix a teaspoon with 8 ounces of water. While it sounds counter-intuitive, cayenne peppers are packed with vitamin C and are a natural analgesic (pain reliever) as it coats and soothes your throat (after the initial burn). Along with treating sore throats, it can also help with a stuffy nose helping to break up the mucous in your nose and throat.

Essential oils - certain natural oils, like those of nutmeg, bergamot, and cypress, all contain camphene, which has a cooling, refreshing effect.

Home Remedies for Young Children

Depending on the age of your child, they may be too small to have lozenges or hard candies. Furthermore, they may not be ready for some of the more well-known adult remedies we listed above that can soothe their throat. If that’s the case, try one of these:

Popsicles - the coldness of a popsicle may temporarily numb the throat.

Cold liquids - try ice water or milk, but stay away from acidic drinks like orange juice or soft drinks.

Pineapple juice - Bromelain, a digestive enzyme found in pineapples, is a tasty way to relieve a dry cough.

Throat sprays - check the medication’s label to ensure your child is old enough to take an over-the-counter throat spray. Most medications should be recommended by your doctor if your child is under the age of 2.

Honey - Honey has been known to soothe a sore throat, tame a nighttime cough, and speed up healing. In fact, a study from the Mayo Clinic says that honey is just as effective as dextromethorphan, a common over-the-counter cough medicine, at treating a cough!

Peppermint - the American Cancer Society states that sprays containing peppermint oil (an "essential oil") may relieve the pain of a sore throat.

Humidifier - the best way to soothe a sore throat is to keep it moist. Having a humidifier keeps the air from becoming too dry and helps keep your throat and mucous membranes moist.

Children's acetaminophen - acetaminophen is the active ingredient here and a common sore throat remedy. In children's medicine, it is given in safe dosages.

Hot sauce - similar to the cayenne pepper remedy for adults, use a hot sauce containing cayenne for a milder effect that comes in a liquid form, rather than using powdered cayenne methods.

When Pain Relief Is Not Enough

As mentioned earlier, common sore throats tend to go away on their own. If you experience any of these symptoms of strep throat, however, you may need a prescription for an antibiotic. If none of these at-home remedies are helping after 48 hours, you can see a doctor.

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