Sore throats are generally caused by viral infections, such as the common cold, the flu, or COVID-19, or by bacterial infections, such as strep throat from streptococcal bacteria.
Acid reflux, allergens, or irritants, such as smoke or dust, can also cause them.
If you have a sore throat, there are a few things you can do at home to ease the discomfort and help your throat heal faster.
What To Avoid
The first step to feeling better is to avoid things that will make your sore throat worse. These include:
● Smoke – including cigarettes, secondhand smoke, and campfires
● Dry air – install a humidifier, if needed
● Air pollution – stay inside and close your windows to reduce exposure
● Allergens – if you have allergies, take steps to avoid your triggers
● Irritants – such as dust or chemicals
● Alcohol – it can make harm your throat, weaken your immune system, and contribute to dehydration
● Acidic foods and drinks – citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, pickles, carbonated drinks
● Spicy foods – chili peppers, curry, salsa
● Dry or rough foods – chips, crackers, popcorn, etc.
Home Remedies to Try
Here are a few things you can do at home to soothe your sore throat:
Gargle with warm salt water. This can help to break down the mucus in your throat and reduce congestion.
A spoonful of honey. Recent clinical studies suggest honey may be more helpful than over-the-counter medication for sore throats.
Drink hot tea. Green tea, black tea, chamomile tea, and herbal tea can help reduce inflammation and ease sore throat.
Eat soup. Warm soup can be easier to eat and swallow than other foods, plus the steam can help to loosen congestion.
Breathe in steam. You can get warm, humid air by boiling water on the stove or by turning on a hot shower.
Install a humidifier. This will add moisture to the air and help to soothe your throat.
Drink cold fluids. This may provide a numbing sensation that can help to ease the pain and discomfort.
Get more rest. Sleep is always important for a healthy immune system, but it’s especially key when fighting off an infection.
Take over-the-counter medication. Pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help to ease sore throat pain. Cough drops may also help.
When To See a Doctor
Most sore throats heal and go away within a few days. If it persists for more than a week, you should see a doctor.
Other signs that you should see a doctor include:
● Difficulty breathing or swallowing
● Blood in saliva or phlegm
● Severe or unexplained pains
● High fever
You may need antibiotics if bacteria cause your sore throat. If you have a viral infection, antibiotics won’t help.
Your doctor can also check for other causes and complications of your sore throat and provide additional treatment options to help you recover.