by Russell Zane, M.D.; Scripps Coastal Medical Center, Carlsbad

Don’t Let a Sore Throat Ruin Your Holidays

scripps_zaneYour throat is scratchy and raw, and you feel miserable. Most sore throats are caused by viral infections, so put your comfortable sweats on, curl up on the couch, and try these simple home remedies to feel better so you can enjoy the holidays.

Anti-inflammatories are one of the most effective remedies for sore throats. Nonprescription medicines that may already be in your medicine cabinet, such as ibuprofen, can ease the swelling associated with a sore throat and make you feel better. If you have asthma, stomach, or kidney issues, avoid aspirin or ibuprofen. Acetaminophen is also an option for pain relief if an anti-inflammatory cannot be used.

Gargle with warm salt water several times a day. Combine one teaspoon of table salt with eight ounces of warm water. Stir until the salt dissolves, gargle for several seconds, and spit out. The warm salt water helps temporarily relieve sore and scratchy throat discomfort.

Over-the-counter throat lozenges and sprays can also help by stimulating saliva production, which can help keep your throat moist. Many lozenges also contain menthol, which numbs the tissue in your throat. Avoid giving lozenges to young children as they are a choking hazard.

Drink fluids such as water, warm teas, or soups to stay hydrated and relieve an irritated throat. Adding some honey to your tea or warm water may increase the soothing properties, as honey can help to reduce swelling and discomfort. If you choose chicken soup, you will be getting some of the nutrients you need in addition to the hydration value. Avoid drinks that are too hot as this could irritate your throat.

Use a cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier to add moisture and eliminate dry air. Breathing in moist air can help soothe swollen tissue in your nose and throat.

Rest is important to give your body time to heal. Make sure you get enough sleep at night, and if possible stay home for a couple of days and take it easy.

If you have a severe sore throat accompanied by a high fever or swollen tonsils, or your sore throat persists for more than a few days, call your doctor. If your sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, you will need antibiotics. If a sore throat is a symptom of a condition other than a viral or bacterial infection, other treatments will be considered depending on the diagnosis.


Russell Zane, M.D., is a family medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center in Carlsbad. Dr. Zane provides comprehensive primary care with an interest in sports medicine and adolescent medicine. When not with patients Dr. Zane enjoys golf and martial arts.


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