Sore throat symptoms can be rough. Your saliva goes down like sandpaper, every cough makes you wince, and the only thing you can think about is making that lump in the back of your throat go away.
But to ease the pain, you need to understand what’s causing your sore throat in the first place: dry air, smoking, acid reflux, viral infections like the flu or common cold, and bacterial infections like strep can all lead to a sore throat.
In general, a viral infection usually comes with other symptoms, like muscle aches and fatigue, along with your sore throat, says Chester Griffiths MD, an otolaryngologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. With a bacterial infection, on the other hand, the pain is usually more focused on your throat and the soreness tends to be pretty severe, Dr. Griffiths says. You may also have intense pain when you swallow, along with a high fever.
Exposure to smoke, breathing in dry air, and having acid reflux tends to feel “very different” from an infection, says Jason Abramowitz, MD, an ear, nose, and throat specialist at ENT and Allergy Associates. “Usually patients do not feel as sick overall [and] the pain is also usually not as severe,” he says.
- Gargle with salt water—but steer clear of apple cider vinegar.
Salt water is a great home remedy for sore throat, as it can reduce swelling and calm inflammation and irritation. It may also help draw infections or irritants to the surface of your throat, where your body is better able to deal with them. Dissolve 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm water and gargle every hour or two, advises Mia Finkelston, MD, a Maryland-based family physician who also treats patients via LiveHealth Online.
While you may have heard that gargling with apple cider vinegar has a similar effect, you should probably steer clear of this tactic for now, says Dr. Comer. “There is little doubt that apple cider vinegar has antibacterial and possibly antifungal properties in lab studies, but whether or not this translates into helping viral or bacterial sore throats is unknown,” he explains. “Additionally, there are potential significant issues to extended use of vinegar with the tooth enamel—vinegar is acidic, and repeated use can damage tooth enamel.”
- Drink extra-cold liquids.
Those first few swallows may not be pleasant. But just as icing a sprained ankle can dull the pain and prevent swelling, drinking icy liquids can both numb your throat and calm some of the inflammation that’s causing you pain, Dr. Finkelston says.
- Suck on an ice pop.
If you get sick of downing ice water, a popsicle can be just as effective at fighting off the inflammation in your throat. Just be sure to steer clear of citrus flavors which can trigger acid reflux and in turn, worsen your symptoms.
Care with homemade or natural products are effective but you must bear in mind that you will not have immediate results. Any questions, remember that it is better to consult with your trusted doctor.
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