All of us have had to deal with sore throat at some point of our life. Suffering from this affliction is no walk in the park as it is one of the most irritating experiences one could ever have. This article will help you quickly understand the causes and symptoms of sore throat. We have also covered some effective homemade remedies that can easily help you overcome these painful symptoms and feel better.
People of all ages can suffer from sore throat. It could be caused by either a bacterial or a viral infection, or because of environmental factors. If you scream too loud then that can leave your throat feeling really sore as well!
Following is a list of viral infections that can leave your throat feeling sore:
- The common cold, probably the most common viral infection known to man.
- The common flu (influenza)
- A viral infection in the larynx (laryngitis)
- Mononucleosis, more commonly known as mono (also known as “the kissing disease” in certain quarters)
- Children suffering from croup (usually accompanied by a barking cough) may suffer from sore throat as well!
Following are the common bacterial infections that can cause recurring sore throat:
- Streptococcus pyrogenes causes strep throat, which will leave your throat feeling sore.
- An inflammation of the tonsil or the adenoid (known as tonsillitis and adenoiditis respectively). There could be bacterial infections in the epiglottis (epiglottitis) or uvula (uvulitis) as well!
- Sometimes your tonsils may be fine but there may be a bacterial infection around the tonsils, which is known as peritonsillar abscess in medical terms.
- Although it is rare in modern industrialized societies, but a sore throat may also be the preliminary symptoms of a far more serious condition like diphtheria or whooping cough.
- People who engage in risky sexual behavior may contract serious STIs such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, the initial symptoms for which would be a typical case of sore throat.
- Kissing can pass the contagious infection that causes sore throat.
Following are a couple of environmental factors that can cause sore throat as well:
- Seasonal allergies or an allergic reaction to an environmental irritant (like dust or smoke)
- Dry or arid environment
Acid reflux is also a common causes of sore throat.
Having a sore throat is a harrowingly annoying experience. Following symptoms will give you an idea why:
- Incessantly dry, scratchy throat. It will feel dry even after you have a drink of water.
- Swallowing is painful, thus making it difficult.
- Talking is painful as well. The voice would sound really hoarse or muffled.
- There may be some swelling around the tonsils. On close inspection, there may be some white spots or pus on the tonsils as well!
There may be some associated symptoms like chills, fever, nausea, vomiting, sneezing, runny nose (congestion), headaches and body aches as well.
Home Remedies to Get Rid of Sore Throat
If you are suffering from a sore throat, you may feel as if you cannot take it anymore and running off to the doctor, seeking a magical elixir might seem like the most logical thing to do. Also, the list of causes for sore throat mentioned earlier seems a bit exhaustive and a tad bit scary as well. Please do not let that turn you into a hypochondriac because nine times out of ten, the symptoms of sore throat is not a reflection of a more serious disease and can be effectively treated via any of the following home remedies.
- Salt Water Gargle
The most commonly cited home remedy for sore throat happens to be one of the most effective and fastest ways to cure sore throat overnight if not instantly. This is one home remedy that is also recommended by doctors. The reasons for these are:
- Salt is an astringent, which means it dries out an area. Hence it can loosen and draw out the pus from the inflammation in your throat.
- The astringent property of salt makes it an effective anti-bacterial agent as well. It causes the bacteria to lose a prodigious amount of water, causing them to shrivel up and die.
To create an effective treatment, mix one tablespoon of salt in about 8 oz. of hot water. You can also add a little bit of anti-bacterial mouth wash into it as well, which is going to:
- Reduce the briny taste of the solution
- Add to the anti-bacterial potency of the treatment
Instead of the mouthwash, you can add half a tablespoon of honey for similar benefits.
The water should be as hot as you can reasonably tolerate. The treatment is ineffective with cold water.
For best results, gargle once every hour. Create a fresh solution before you gargle every time. This will ensure that no bacteria from your throat ends up in the solution (from the backwash).
- Lemon and Honey
Lemon has natural astringent properties that can help you get some relief from sore throat. Adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to the salt water gargle mentioned earlier is the most common way to use lemon to treat your sore throat. Besides that, you can use lemon to cure your sore throat in the following ways:
- Lemon and Honey Hot Toddy: Drinking lemon and honey hot toddy is a delicious way to heal your sore throat. Take one tablespoon of honey in a mug. Fill the mug with some lukewarm water and add a teaspoon of lemon juice to the solution. Mix it thoroughly till the honey completely dissolves in the hot water. Put it in the microwave for a couple of minutes, so that the solution is steaming hot. Add a slice of lemon to the solution and sip it gently. Feel free to drink this solution throughout the day for as many times as you like. For best results, drink the entire cup while it is still hot.
- Ginger Lemon and Honey Tea: Ginger has natural anti-inflammatory properties and can perfectly complement the astringent properties of lemon to effectively treat your sore throat. This tea is really easy to make. Take a tablespoon of grated ginger in a teapot and fill it with boiling hot water. Let it simmer for about three minutes. Now add one tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice into the kettle and stir it a couple of times. Take a clean cup and add a tablespoon of honey to it. Fill the cup from the kettle and stir the solution till the honey is completely dissolved. Enjoy!
One thing that needs to be mentioned is that the role of honey in the above drinks is far beyond that of a natural sweetener. The anti-bacterial properties of honey has been well documented to such an extent that several survival guides state that in case of an emergency, honey can be used as a topical anti-bacterial ointment for minor cuts and scrapes. Besides indulging in the delicious drinks mentioned above, feel free to treat yourself to a teaspoon of honey throughout the course of the day, as it will get rid of your sore throat really fast!
- Licorice Root
The health benefits of licorice root have been documented throughout ages. It has anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe the inflammations in your throat and reduce the mucous secretions. Following is how you can use licorice root to treat your sore throat:
- Instead of salt, you can add a teaspoon of licorice root powder to hot water and gargle with that.
- You can boil some organic licorice root in hot water to make some licorice tea. As licorice is naturally sweet, there is no need to add any sugar or other sweeteners.
- You can also add a pinch of licorice root powder to an herbal tea of your choice.
Long term use of this treatment is not recommended for people with:
- High blood pressure. This would include women who are pregnant as well, as pregnancy tends to elevate blood pressure from its normal level.
- Heart conditions.
- Hot Sauce
Using hot sauce for treating sore throat is recommended by none other than Dr. Mehmet Oz, the celebrity medical practitioner in the United States. Hot sauce is made from hot peppers, which contains capsaicin, a natural pain reliever. To implement this treatment, take 8 oz of hot water and add about 5 drops of hot sauce to it and then gargle using this solution for as long as you can. Be prepared as it is going to burn for a bit. However, if you can overcome this, then you will get some welcome relief within a few hours.
- Slippery Elm
Slippery elm is a traditional Native American cure for sore throat. Medical research behind their purported benefits is pretty sparse, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that points towards its efficacy as an effective treatment for sore throat. One working theory as to why that is so effective is that the bark of the slippery elm tree consists of a mucous like substance called mucilage, which forms a protective cover on the throat inflammation. Following is how you can use slippery elm to reduce the irritating symptoms of sore throat:
- Boil a cup of water. As the water is about to boil, add some slippery elm herb, (which is usually the powdered bark of the slippery elm tree) then keep the flame on for a few more seconds till the water starts boiling.
- Let it simmer for a few minutes.
- Strain the liquid and drink it. Feel free to add a teaspoon of honey for added taste.
This treatment is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women.
- Marshmallow Root
Marshmallow root is a herb that tends to help you overcome the symptoms of sore throat pretty much the same way that slippery elm does. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, there have been some studies conducted that shows marshmallow roots to soothe inflamed mucous membranes. You can make a tea with marshmallow root, exactly the same way you would prepare the tea with the slipper elm, as mentioned in the previous section.
Just like the treatment with slippery elm, this is not recommended for pregnant women or nursing mothers. On top of that, marshmallow root tends to lower the level of blood glucose; hence people who are diabetic should consult their doctor before starting this treatment.
Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant and has potent anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties as well, which can be used to combat a sore throat that is caused by a bacterial infection. For best results, simply add half a tablespoon of turmeric powder to the salt water gargle solution that was mentioned earlier in this article.
Doctors recommend that one needs to stay hydrated while suffering from a sore throat. However, drinking water non-stop can prove to be a mundane and cumbersome process. If you source some of your fluids from tea, it can provide you with some added benefits besides keeping you hydrated. Following are a couple of ways how:
- Either green or black tea is a rich source of antioxidants. Besides being great for your skin and hair, it helps you strengthen your immunity, which will help your body naturally combat the chronic bacterial or viral infection.
- The warmth of the liquid will soothe your throat instantly.
Sweeten your tea with honey instead of sugar, so that you can use the anti-bacterial properties of honey to ward off your affliction sooner!
- Chicken Soup
If you are suffering from sore throat, you know that swallowing your saliva is tough enough. Hence, passing solid food down your food-pipe may seem like an insurmountable ordeal. Yet, you need to keep your strength so that you can fight this infection. This is where chicken soup may come to the rescue in more ways than one:
- Even if you have difficulty swallowing down the chunky pieces of chicken, the broth will have some of the essential nutrients.
- The broth of the chicken soup also has a high amount of sodium, which has astringent and anti-bacterial properties that will help you fight the infection.
- The warm soup will help soothe the inflamed area as well.
Cloves have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties and they too can help you beat an onset of sore throat. Simply add three teaspoons of powdered cloves into hot water, mix it well and use it to gargle multiple times during the course of the day.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) can be used to cure your sore throat as well, because of the following reasons:
- ACV reduces the pH level of the throat, making is slightly acidic. This makes the environment really hostile for the bacteria that is causing the affliction.
- It has natural anti-bacterial properties
- It is an astringent
- With persistent use it can also provide a necessary boost to your immune system
You can use ACV in the following ways to treat your sore throat:
- You can add one teaspoon of ACV to the salt water gargle mentioned earlier.
- You can also add one teaspoon of ACV to the Lemon and Honey Hot Toddy or the Ginger Lemon and Honey Tea.
- You can add one teaspoon of ACV and one teaspoon of honey to an 8 oz. glass of water and drink it several times during the course of the day.
For best results, use organic ACV that has the ‘mother of vinegar’ still in it!
Garlic contains an organosulfur compound called allicin, which is renowned for its anti-bacterial properties. To use this treatment, take a couple of raw garlic cloves in each cheek and suck on it for about ten minutes. For best results, do it at least four times during the course of the day.
Over the Counter Treatment
In case of a severe infection, you may need to seek the help some over the counter (OTC) treatments to help supplement the home remedies. Below are some OTC medications that you can easily procure at your local pharmacist.
- Throat Lozenge
The market is saturated with throat lozenges that can help you deal with the pain. They help because:
- Almost all throat lozenge contains either menthol or eucalyptus. It gently numbs the tissue in your throat, providing you with some temporary relief.
- Continuous sucking increases the production of saliva, which leaves your throat moist and lubricated.
Throat lozenges can be a choking hazard and is not recommended for children younger than four years. Also note that they will not make the condition go away and will only provide you with some temporary relief.
- Throat Sprays
Throat sprays work the same way that lozenges do, where they do not cure the affliction but provide some temporary relief by numbing the area. The only major difference is that throat sprays work faster that lozenges. However, some of the newer brands, such as Chloraseptic contains phenolic compounds, which has anti-bacterial properties.
Sometimes the pain may start being a bit severe, as a result of which just gargles, lozenges and spray may fail to provide adequate relief, especially if you are suffering from a fever as well. If that sounds like what you are going through, then you can try the following OTC painkillers:
- Aspirin (Brand Names: Bayer, Bufferin): Besides being a painkiller, it also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help treat the bacterial infection. However, this should not be administered to children or adolescents because it has been known to cause Reye’s syndrome, a potentially fatal affliction.
- Naproxen (Brand Names: Aleve, Naprosyn): Is a pain reliever and has good anti-inflammatory properties as well. It is safer than aspirin.
- Acetaminophen (Brand Name: Tylenol): Is a painkiller and will also help reduce the fever.
- Ibuprofen (Brand Name: Advil, Motrin): Works the same way as acetaminophen.
- Hydrogen Peroxide
If you have a fever along with a sore throat, then that needs to be treated as well. As mentioned in the previous section, you can always take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. That being said, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence pointing towards a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide as an unconventional, yet highly effective treatment for fever. Simply put three drops of hydrogen peroxide in one of your ears for ten minutes. Ignore the bubbling as it is completely natural and should subside after the first dew minutes. Tilt your head and allow the hydrogen peroxide to fall out naturally. Now repeat the process with the other ear.
Please remember the following while you are applying this treatment:
- The hydrogen peroxide should not be ingested under any circumstance.
- Do not use anything stronger than a 3% solution.
- There is minimal support for this treatment from the medical community, hence use it at your discretion.
When to See a Doctor
There are two main reasons why you may have to see a doctor:
- You started a regimen a little too late, causing the infection to reach an advanced stage.
- You are suffering from far more serious affliction than a typical case of sore throat.
If you displaying any of the following symptoms, it might mean that it is time to pay a visit to the doctor’s office:
- The continuous pain in your throat is severe, making it difficult for you to sleep at night.
- You have tried the home remedies for a duration of two days without any significant improvement.
- The associated fever is at 101 degrees (Fahrenheit) or higher.
- There is an appearance of a red rash that may feel like sandpaper (a sign of scarlet fever).
If it is just a severe case of the usual bacterial or viral infection, you would be given a strong dose of antibiotics. However, if you are suffering from tonsillitis or adenoiditis, then the doctor may perform a minor surgery as well!
If you are suffering from a far more severe disease the doctor will advise you accordingly or may refer you to a specialist. Discussing all the ramifications of this is beyond the scope of this article.