Throat inflammation can lead to a sore throat as well as symptoms like throat burning and difficulty swallowing. It is usually caused by prolonged exposure to cold or by an infection like the flu or tonsillitis.
In some cases, a sore throat can be treated at home with simple measures such as rest, avoiding sudden temperature changes and home remedies like salt water gargle or lemon tea with honey and ginger.
If your sore throat does not resolve on its own or if you notice pus in your throat, you should see a doctor to start treatment as necessary. The doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications, like ibuprofen, to manage symptoms, or antibiotics, like penicillin, to treat the infection.
Home remedies for a sore throat
Some home remedies to treat sore throats include:
1. Warm water and salt gargle
A water and salt solution contains antimicrobial properties that help to eliminate microorganisms in the throat, which can reduce symptoms. To prepare this solution, add one tablespoon of salt to a cup of warm water and mix until well dissolved. Then gargle this solution at least 3 times, being sure to spit out the water each time.
2. Lemon tea with honey and ginger
Another great home remedy for a sore throat is lemon tea made with lemon and ginger, taken a day. This tea contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and is rich in vitamin C, which helps to strengthen the immune system.
To prepare this tea, add a sliced lemon and 1 cm of ginger to a cup of hot water and allow these to soak for 15 minutes. Then strain and sweeten with honey.
3. Mallow, sage or marshmallow tea
These plants contain anti-inflammatory properties and lubricate the throat to help relieve symptoms. To make tea, add one tablespoon of the chosen plant to 1 cup of hot water. Then allow to soak for 15 minutes and strain.
4. Strawberry and honey smoothie
Strawberries contain vitamin C, which stimulates the body’s defence mechanisms. Honey helps to lubricate the throat, helping to reduce pain and swelling. To make this smoothie, mix 1 cup of milk and 6 strawberries in a blender until well combined, and then add 1 teaspoon of honey.
In terms of diet, when you have a sore throat, you should opt for liquid or smooth textures, like soups, broths, or fruit purees. Avoid overly cold or hot drinks, as these can cause discomfort when swallowing. Check out other home remedies for a sore throat.
Pharmacy medication for sore throat
Throat medications obtained at the pharmacy can be an important factor of treatment, especially if pain is very intense, takes longer than 3 days to resolve, or is accompanied by fever. In these cases, you should see your doctor for assessment and to decide whether treatment should be started with medication.
Common medications to treat sore throats include:
- Anti-inflammatories (e.g. ibuprofen, naproxen), which help to reduce swelling, relieve pain and facilitate swallowing
- Analgesics (e.g. acetaminophen), which help to reduce pain and more used when inflammation is not as visible
- Antibiotics (e.g. amoxicillin, clavulin), which are used to treat bacterial infections
These medications should only be used as prescribed. They should not be replaced by natural remedies, as more natural options usually serve to complement medically-indicated treatment.
Sore throat symptoms
Symptoms of a sore throat include:
- Throat discomfort
- Scratchy, dry cough
- Throat pain when swallowing or speaking
- Visibly reddened and swollen throat
- Low-grade fever
- High fever, which is more common with bacterial infections
- Bad breath
- Swollen lymph nodes on the neck
Sore throats can be caused by a flu virus, cold, tonsillitis, laryngitis or pharyngitis. Other possible causes of a sore throat include throat irritation from inhaling toxic substances, excessive alcohol consumption or acid reflux. An itchy throat that is left untreated can also lead to throat pain - see what can cause an itchy throat and what to do.
Sore throats are usually a result of a bacterial tonsillitis infection, but it can also occur with:
- Viral infections, like a cold or flu
- Dry weather
- Excessive use of your voice
- Strep throat
Prolonged and/or frequent exposure to cigarette smoke can also cause a sore throat. Some people compare throat discomfort to having a lump in the throat. Learn about what can cause the sensation of a lump in the throat and what to do.
Can a sore throat by a sign of COVID-19?
A sore throat can be a symptom of coronavirus, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms like a headache, body aches, high-grade fever, dry and persistent cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. If the sore throat occurs on its own, it is more likely related to a cold, flu or bacterial infection. Read more about the symptoms of COVID-19 and how it is treated.