What are the best ways to help a sore throat?


Several factors can cause a sore throat, such as illnesses, allergies, and acid reflux. Depending on the cause, people can use home remedies to help soothe sore throats.

A sore throat might feel scratchy or make it painful to swallow. This article explains some common causes of a sore throat, what people can do to ease it, and when to speak with a doctor.

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Causes of a sore throat include:

  • viruses, such as those that cause colds, flu, or COVID-19
  • streptococcal pharyngitis, or strep throat, a group A strep bacterial infection
  • allergies
  • acid reflux
  • smoking or secondhand smoke exposure

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC),Trusted Source viruses are the most common cause of sore throats.

A sore throat is usually nothing to worry about, but it can be uncomfortable.

However, people can try the following remedies at home to help to ease discomfort.

1. Use lozenges

Lozenges are available over the counter (OTC) and can help to ease the symptoms of a sore throat.

They dissolve in the mouth, releasing ingredients that soothe a dry, irritated throat. They may be medicated or nonmedicated.

A 2017 studyTrusted Source found that lozenges containing amylmetacresol and 2,4-dichlorobenzylalcohol (AMC/DCBA) are a safe and effective way to relieve the pain associated with sore throats.

Lozenges may also contain:

  • antiseptic to kill germs
  • local anesthetic to numb the throat

Different types of lozenges are available from drugstores.

2. Use honey

Honey is a traditional home remedy for sore throats. According to a 2016 study, taking 1 tablespoon of honey twice daily can help ease a sore throat.

The study stated that honey has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties that can provide relief from sore throats and promote a faster recovery.

However, a person should not give honey to infants under 1 year oldTrusted Source.

3. Drink hot or cold fluids

Drinking hot or cold fluids can help ease the discomfort in two ways:

  • keeping the throat moist
  • soothing the throat

Cold liquids, frozen popsicles, or ice chips can also help by numbing the painful area.

4. Use OTC pain relief

As well as lozenges, people can also try OTC pain medication to help ease a sore throat.

Acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen are good choices.

Numbing throat sprays may also help. People can purchase these in most drugstores.

5. Gargle saltwater

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source suggest gargling warm salt water can help sore throats.

A person should add about 1–2 teaspoons of salt to a cup and fill it with boiling water.

They should then wait for it to cool before gargling a mouthful at a time and spitting it out.

A person should take care not to swallow any saltwater. People with diabetes or those on a low sodium diet should practice extra caution with this treatment method.

6. Take an antacid

Sometimes, acid reflux can cause a sore throat.

Acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occursTrusted Source when the contents of the stomach come back up into the esophagus or windpipe.

As well as heartburn and chest pain, this can causeTrusted Source:

  • pain when swallowing
  • difficulty swallowing
  • hoarseness
  • cough

OTC antacid medications can help prevent sore throats by relieving the symptoms of acid reflux.

However, if a person has to take antacids frequently to ease acid reflux, they should speak with a doctor about alternative treatments.

Modifications to a person’s lifestyle and diet can alleviate chronic acid reflux. A doctor may also prescribe medication.

7. Take antihistamines

Sometimes, allergies can cause a sore throat.

Allergies occur when the body’s immune system recognizes a harmless substance as a threat and mounts a response.

This can happen due to:

  • pollen
  • dust mites
  • animals
  • mold

OTC antihistamines can help ease allergy symptoms, including a sore throat.

However, many other remedies detailed here, such as honey and lozenges, can also relieve allergy-related sore throats by reducing pain and inflammation.

8. Take vitamins and supplements

The body needs vitamins to fight off illnesses, including those that cause sore throats. Taking vitamins may help to prevent common colds and their symptoms.

A 2018 studyTrusted Source found that four main supplements play an important role in preventing common colds and keeping the immune system healthy. They include:

  • vitamin D
  • vitamin C
  • zinc
  • echinacea

They found that taking these vitamins and supplements reduced the symptoms of common colds and promoted a faster recovery.

Drinking orange juice with ice can also soothe a sore throat by numbing the area while also providing vitamin C.

However, people with acid reflux may wish to avoid this method, as orange juice is acidic and can worsen the symptoms of GERD.

9. Get some rest

The body needs lots of rest when the immune system is fending off an illness.

Not getting enough sleep can makeTrusted Source the body more vulnerable to infections and illnesses, as a lack of sleep impacts the immune system and reduces the production of antibodies.

According to the CDC, the recommended amount of sleep for an average adult is 7 hoursTrusted Source per night or more.

Learn more about the importance of sleep here.

10. Avoid irritants

An irritant can sometimes cause or worsen a sore throat.

Examples of common irritants are:

  • smoking and vaping
  • being exposed to secondhand smoke
  • drinking alcohol
  • consuming acidic food and drink
  • eating spicy food

Exposure to chemicals such as those in cleaning products can sometimes irritate the throat.

A person with a sore throat should avoid smoking, vaping, and drinking alcohol, as these can worsen symptoms.

A person with acid reflux or GERD should avoid acidic or spicy food, as these can also worsen the conditions.

People who get chronic sore throats should also consider stopping smoking and eliminating alcohol, if relevant, as well as reducing their exposure to any other type of irritants.

11. Use a humidifier

People often get sore throats when the air around them is too dry.

A humidifier turns water into vapor and releases it into the air, increasing the humidity.

By adding moisture to the air, a humidifier can moisten the throat. This can sometimes help with the symptoms of a sore throat.

12. Stay hydrated

It may seem obvious, but drinking water is an effective way to help sore throats.

Dehydration can often cause a sore, dry throat. Drinking water will help remedy this.

A person should drinkTrusted Source more water when exercising, if they are unwell, and if they are in a hot climate.

13. Try natural remedies

This section considers some natural remedies a person can try.

However, a person should always consult a doctor before using any natural remedies, especially if they take other medications.

Slippery elm

Native Americans have used slippery elm bark to treat sore throats for many years.

It has a thick consistency allowing it to coat and soothe a sore throat. However, the evidence to support this is only anecdotal, and researchers have not proved its effectiveness.

Producers strip the bark from the trees, then detach the “inner bark” for drying and powdering. They then use the powder to make teas and supplements to ease sore throats.

Marshmallow root

As with slippery elm bark, marshmallow root is a thick substance that can coat and protect a sore throat.

This may helpTrusted Source to soothe pain and inflammation and promote recovery.

People can find marshmallow root as an ingredient in teas and lozenges.

Licorice root

Many people believe that licorice and licorice root can help to ease a sore throat. It is a common ingredient in teas, lozenges, and supplements.

One 2019 studyTrusted Source found that licorice root could relieve symptoms of strep throat, but more research is needed to prove its effectiveness.

When to consult a doctor

People should speak with a doctor if:

  • the sore throat does not go away or worsens within a few days
  • they suspect they or their child may have strep throat

For strep throat, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

Alongside a sore throat, symptoms of strep throat include:

  • breathing difficulties
  • difficulty swallowing
  • blood in the saliva or phlegm
  • dehydration

A person should seek prompt medical attention if they experience these symptoms:

  • swelling or pain in the joints
  • a rash

Young children with strep throat may also drool excessively.

Anyone with a sore throat linked to COVID-19 should try to stay at home. Most peopleTrusted Source will have a mild illness and get better without medical attention.

Anyone experiencing the following symptoms should seek emergency care straight away:

  • breathing difficulties
  • persistent chest pain
  • pressure in the chest
  • confusion
  • inability to wake up or to stay awake


Viruses are the main cause of sore throats. Other causes include bacterial infections, allergies, and irritants.

To help sore throats, people can try lozenges, over-the-counter pain medicines and sprays, honey, herbal medicines, saltwater gargles, and more.

A sore throat will usually resolve on its own. However, people should speak with a doctor if they feel they are not getting better or suspect strep throat or a serious COVID-19 infection.





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