A sore throat refers to pain, itchiness, or irritation of the throat. You may have difficulty swallowing food and liquids, and the pain may get worse when you try to swallow. Throat pain is the primary symptom of a sore throat.
What causes sore throats?
Allergies, dry air, and outdoor pollution, as well as illnesses like the common cold, flu, measles, chickenpox, mononucleosis (mono), and the croup, can all cause sore throats. These illnesses are all viral infections that will not respond to antibiotics.
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.
Remedy #1: Licorice root
Licorice root has long been used to treat sore throats, and recent research shows it is effective when mixed with water to create a gargle solution. A 2009 study, for instance, found that it soothed throats and diminished coughing after surgery.
Remedy #2: Slippery elm
More research is needed on slippery elm, but it has long been a traditional remedy for sore throat.
Slippery elm has a mucus-like substance in it. When mixed with water, this substance forms a slick gel that coats and soothes. To use, pour boiling water over powdered bark, stir, and drink. You may also find that slippery elm lozenges help.
Remedy #3: 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 nighttime 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.
Remedy #4: Salt water
Gargling salt water is a known treatment for sore throats. According to the University of Connecticut, 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.
Remedy #5: Marshmallow root
Like slippery elm, marshmallow root contains a mucus-like substance that coats and soothes a sore throat. Simply add some of the dried root to a cup of boiling water to make tea. Sipping the tea two to three times a day may help ease throat pain.