Sore throats typically last three to seven days; however, these remedies can soothe your pain and possibly help you get better faster.
Sore throats are a common problem for many of us. While most instances of sore throats tend to get better on their own, lasting about three to seven days, there are remedies you can try to soothe your throat and possibly get better faster, which includes:
- Suck on ice chips, popsicles or lozenges
- Use a clean humidifier or cool-mist humidifier in your room
- Gargle with warm saltwater
- Drink warm beverages and plenty of fluids
- Use honey to relieve cough in adults and children older than one year of age
- Get plenty of rest
- Take over-the-counter medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to relieve pain and reduce fevers
Other remedies to get over your sore throat quickly can include:
- Throat lozenges
- If you have a mild sore throat, sucking on a lozenge can help lubricate the throat because the sucking action helps produce saliva.
- Also, ingredients, such as lemon and honey, in these products can help relieve irritation and stop the throat from feeling dry.
- Throat spray
- For sore throats that are very painful and make it difficult to swallow, using throat sprays containing a local anesthetic could be a good option.
- The effects work quickly since the spray is directed to the exact point at the back of the throat and works to numb the pain.
- For extremely inflamed sore throats, ibuprofen tablets will help.
- Gargling with soluble aspirin (300-mg strength) is also an option because it targets the inflamed area at the back of the throat.
- Since antibiotics won’t relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery time, doctors don't typically prescribe them for sore throats.
- Doctors may only prescribe antibiotics if they think you have a bacterial infection.
What is a sore throat?
A sore throat is an irritation of the throat that is associated with pain or scratchiness and may make swallowing difficult. Often seen as the first warning sign of an infection, sore throats can be divided into these three categories, which depend on the area affected:
- Pharyngitis: affects the area right behind the mouth.
- Tonsillitis: swelling and redness of the tonsils, affecting the soft tissue in the back of the mouth.
- Laryngitis: swelling and redness of the larynx.
What are the common causes of a sore throat?
Causes of sore throats can range from infections to injuries and may include:
- Viruses cause about 90 percent of sore throats, with the common cold and influenza as the top viral infections.
- Streptococcus bacterium is the most common cause of bacterial sore throat with strep throat causing nearly 40 percent of cases in children.
- Tonsillitis and sexually transmitted infections (gonorrhea and chlamydia) can also cause a sore throat.
- When triggered by allergies (pollen, grass and pet dander), the immune system reacts by releasing chemicals that cause symptoms such as nasal congestion, watery eyes, sneezing and throat irritation.
- Excess mucus in the nose can drip down the back of the throat in a condition called postnasal drip, which can irritate the throat.
- Injuries such as aphthous ulcers or swallowing excessively hot liquids can cause pain in the throat. Additionally, getting a piece of food stuck in the throat can also irritate it.
- Repeated speech or shouting may strain the vocal cords and muscles in the throat causing a sore throat.
- A tumor of the throat, voice box or tongue may cause a sore throat.
- When a sore throat is a sign of cancer, it does not go away after a few days.
- A condition in which acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach), which may result in a sore throat.
- Dry air can suck moisture from the mouth and throat, which can leave them feeling dry and scratchy.
- Dry air is more common in the winter months when the heater is running.
Smoke, chemicals and other irritants
- Many different chemicals and substances in the environment can irritate the throat, including cigarette and other tobacco smoke, air or traffic pollution, cleaning products and other chemicals.
The most common treatment for a sore throat is rest, which is essential to give your immune system the time it needs to fight your illness. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics for bacterial infections, but viral infections need to run their course. If allergies cause a persistent sore throat, you will be referred to a specialist to discuss your triggers and explore medication and surgical options.