by Haleh Mahdavieh, M.D.; Scripps Clinic, Rancho Bernardo

Don’t Let a Sore Throat Ruin Your Holidays

scripps_mahdaviehYour throat is scratchy and raw, and you feel miserable. Most sore throats are caused by viral infections, so put your comfortable sweats on, curl up on the couch, and try these simple home remedies to feel better so you can enjoy the holidays.

Anti-inflammatories are one of the most effective remedies for sore throats. Nonprescription medicines that may already be in your medicine cabinet such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can ease the swelling associated with a sore throat and make you feel better. If you have asthma, stomach, or kidney issues, avoid aspirin or ibuprofen.

Gargle with warm salt water at least once an hour. Try combining one teaspoon of table salt with eight ounces of warm water. Stir until the salt dissolves, gargle for several seconds and spit out. The salt pulls the mucus out of your swollen, inflamed tissue and helps relieve sore throat discomfort.

Over-the-counter throat lozenges and sprays can also help by stimulating saliva production, which can help keep your throat moist. Many lozenges also contain menthol, which numbs the tissue in your throat. Steroid sprays can make breathing easier by shrinking swollen mucous membranes in the nose so that air can get through. They may also relieve a runny nose and postnasal drip that can cause a sore throat. Avoid giving lozenges to young children as they are a choking hazard.

Drink fluids such as water, warm teas, or soups to stay hydrated and soothe an irritated throat. Adding some honey to your tea or warm water will double the healing properties, as honey helps reduce swelling and discomfort, and if you choose chicken soup you will be getting some of the nutrients you need. Avoid drinks that are too hot as this could irritate your throat.

Over-the-counter cough syrups can also help a sore throat, even if you don’t have a cough. Syrups coat the throat, providing temporary pain relief.

Use a cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier to add moisture and eliminate dry air. Breathing in moist air can help soothe swollen tissue in your nose and throat.

Rest is important to give your body time to heal. Make sure you get enough sleep at night, and if possible stay home for a couple of days and take it easy.

If you have a severe sore throat accompanied by a high fever or swollen tonsils, or your sore throat persists for more than a few days, call your doctor. If your sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, you will need antibiotics. If a sore throat is a symptom of a condition other than a viral or bacterial infection, other treatments will be considered depending on the diagnosis.


Haleh Mahdavieh, M.D., is an internal medicine physician at Scripps Clinic in Rancho Bernardo. Dr. Mahdavieh provides comprehensive primary care with an interest in preventive medicine. Dr. Mahdavieh focuses on the whole person and when not with patients, enjoys reading, traveling, and swimming.


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