Bacterial infections are responsible for only a small percentage of sore throats, including those linked with strep throat, whooping cough, and diphtheria. Most doctors recommend calling a doctor only in cases of severe sore throat accompanied by a fever, or when swollen tonsils block the throat.
Even if a sore throat isn’t serious enough to warrant a trip to the doctor, it’s still painful and may interfere with a good night’s sleep. Fortunately, there are a number of at-home remedies you can use to soothe the pain and irritation. Some of which are;
Honey. Honey mixed in tea or simply taken straight up is a common household remedy for a sore throat. One study found that honey was even more effective at taming night-time coughs than common cough suppressants. Other studies have also shown that honey is an effective wound healer, which means it may help speed healing for sore throats.
Salt Water. Gargling salt water is a known treatment for sore throats. Gargling with warm salt water can help soothe a sore throat and break down secretions. It’s also known to help kill bacteria in the throat. A salt water solution consisting of 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water can help reduce swelling and keep the throat clean. This should be done every three hours or so.
Peppermint. Peppermint is known for its ability to freshen breath. However, sprays containing peppermint oil may also relieve sore throats. Peppermint has menthol, which helps thin mucus and calm sore throats and coughs. Peppermint contains anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties, which may help encourage healing.
Baking soda gargle. While the salt water gargle is more commonly used, gargling baking soda mixed with salt water can help to relieve a sore throat as well. Gargling this solution can kill bacteria and prevent both yeast and fungi growth. The National Cancer Institute recommends gargling and gently swishing a combination of 1 cup warm water, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. They recommend repeating this every three hours as needed.
Over-the-counter treatments. When natural remedies just aren’t cutting it, there are several over-the-counter treatment options. Ibuprofen can be an effective pain reliever. Follow it with a full glass of water while sitting or standing up so it doesn’t stay in the throat and cause irritation. Acetaminophen can also be effective, and can be given to young children. In addition to pain-relieving oral treatments, over-the-counter options like lozenges or numbing sprays can provide relief.
Other potential options. Other potential sore throat soothers include eucalyptus, which you’ll likely find in natural throat lozenges and cough syrups. Trying out these various natural remedies — while making sure to drink lots of fluids and get your rest — may help you feel better more quickly, and save you a trip to the doctor’s office.