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How to Help a Sore Throat Go Away

A Sore Throat (Pharyngitis)
A Sore Throat (Pharyngitis) | Source

Before looking at how to help a sore throat go away, let's quickly go over what a sore throat is, as well as its causes and symptoms.

What Is a Sore Throat?

Sore throats are extremely common. Between 16 million and 18 million Americans visit their doctor about this condition annually, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Of these around 90% are viral infections (viral pharyngitis), which can be cleared up fairly easily.

However it's more difficult where the infection is bacterial (bacterial pharyngitis) because the symptoms of both bacterial and viral infections can be similar.

The problem occurs when the patient either ignores the symptoms or treats the sore throat as if it were a viral infection.

If the sore throat is bacterial, a delay in diagnosis and treatment can lead to more serious health issues. For example, strep throat, if left untreated, can cause rheumatic heart disease.

Sore Throat Symptoms

The signs of an oncoming sore throat are things like a scratchy, raspy feeling at the back of the throat and some pain, particularly when swallowing. These symptoms may be accompanied by the common cold symptoms; a runny nose, coughing, sneezing and a stuffy head.

3 Common Causes of Sore Throats

Three of the most common causes of sore throats are viral infection, bacterial infection, and dry air.

1. Viral Infections

These are the most common by far and very often accompany colds and flu alongside symptoms like aches and pains, runny nose, sneezing and just feeling 'under the weather.'

But, depending on the virus of course, there are some instances where a sore throat can accompany more serious infections such as chicken pox, whooping cough, croup and measles.

Viral throat infections usually go within a week or so as the body builds sufficient antibodies that kill the virus.

Antibiotics are useless against viruses. Not only will they not cure a sore throat, but their use in viral pharyngitis can help the body build an immunity, rendering them useless when they are really needed.

2. Bacterial Infections

The most common of these is 'strep throat' caused by the streptococcus bacterium. This is a serious infection that can not only cause rheumatic heart disease, as previously mentioned, but can also cause pneumonia, scarlet fever, sinusitis, tonsillitis, ear infections, and even damage the kidneys.

Other bacterial infections causing sore throats include tonsillitis, nose and sinus infections, and epiglottitis.

Epiglottitis is particularly dangerous. It is caused by a bacteria that contaminates the larynx (your voice box), causing swelling that can block the airway.

A patient showing signs such as difficulty breathing, muffled speech, or great pain when swallowing, should seek urgent medical help as these could be the signs of possible epiglottitis.

Your doctor will treat bacterial infections with antibiotics. Always follow their instructions and finish the complete course, unless directed otherwise by your doctor.

3. Dry Air

This is another common cause of sore throats. For example, if you sleep with your mouth open, you are inhaling dry air, made even worse with central heating during winter months. This air dries out throat tissue and causes irritation.

Those who breathe normally through their nose during the night are protected, because the nose, as it is meant to, moistens the air as it passes through.

However, if your nose is congested, you will end up breathing through your mouth and so could end up with a sore throat.

Other Causes of Sore Throats

  • Straining your vocal chords can also cause sore throats, e.g., shouting, screaming, singing with poor technique, etc.
  • Pollen, molds, chemicals and other airborne pollutants, can irritate the throat as well as the nose.
  • Allergies that affect the nose can also irritate the throat.
  • Smoking is an obvious cause of sore throats.
  • Postnasal drip -- where mucus runs into the throat from the back of the nose -- can irritate throat tissue.

When to See Your Doctor

As you've seen above, most sore throats are not threatening and disappear within 5-7 days without the need for medication.

However, there are sore throats that could signify something more severe. You should visit your doctor for a diagnosis if you have:

  • a sore throat that does not improve after 5-7 days
  • a sore throat that is particularly severe
  • a lump in your neck
  • problems swallowing
  • breathing problems
  • difficulty opening your mouth
  • a persistent high temperature (101 deg F / 38 deg C)
  • any joint pain
  • earache
  • rash
  • signs of blood in your saliva or phlegm

Now let's look at some simple tips on how to help your sore throat go away.

How to Help a Sore Throat Go Away

If you've seen your doctor, and they have diagnosed a viral infection, here are several ways you can help your sore throat:

  • Suck lozenges to ease the discomfort. You've probably done this yourself in the past. This is a very common way of treating sore throats caused by a virus. Even doctors often recommend lozenges when they have diagnosed a viral infection. Lozenges containing phenol are particularly effective for this type of infection. Phenol can kill surface germs and has a slight anesthetic effect, thus reducing the feeling of irritation, whilst your body's antibodies battle the virus.
  • Raw garlic. Garlic has natural anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. For best effect, eat it raw in your food. You can also mash a clove into a smooth paste, mix with a couple of drops of olive oil, then swallow a teaspoonful of the mixture. Garlic pills can be used, but they are not as effective as the real thing.
  • Gargle the pain away. One of the most effective ways to help a sore throat is to gargle with a salt solution to reduce any swelling and relieve pain. Below you will find instructions on how to gargle, as well as several variations.

Gargle instructions and variations:

  • Mix 1 teaspoon of table salt in 1 pint of warm water then gargle 4 or 5 times a day until the symptoms abate.
  • Another effective gargle uses turmeric, which has natural anti-inflammatory, astringent and antimicrobial properties. So it can potentially reduce inflammation, reduce phlegm and battle infection. Use 1 teaspoon of turmeric in 1 cup of warm water.
  • Yet another is to use aspirin, as long as you are allowed aspirin. But you aren't going to swallow, you're going to gargle. Crush an aspirin then dilute it properly in warm water before gargling. This will help with the pain and inflammation.
  • Cinnamon can also be used to gargle.This is an anti-bacterial spice containing a gluey substance called 'mucilage' that can help to coat and thus protect the throat. Simply soak a stick of cinnamon in a cup of COLD water then gargle.

Other Ways to Help Your Sore Throat Go Away

  • Avoid food or drink that is too hot as this can irritate your throat.
  • Eat softer kinds of food and only drink cool or warm liquids.
  • Drink warm tea with honey or lemon.
  • Avoid smoking and stay out of smoky environments.
  • Keep well-hydrated by drinking lots of water, especially where there is a fever.
  • Use a humidifier or mist vaporizer in your bedroom.
  • Breathe steam for 10 minutes from a basin containing boiling water and eucalyptus oil.
  • Get rid of your old toothbrush after you recover, as it harbors millions of germs.

Consult Your Physician

Always consult your physician or health care provider before taking any medications, natural remedies, supplements, or making any major changes to your diet.

Try the remedies above and see how you get on. But remember, if you have any of the symptoms listed in 'When to See Your Doctor' above, do not hesitate to consult your doctor/physician right away.

© 2013 JCielo

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Please Take a Second to Leave a Comment 7 comments

JCielo profile image

JCielo 3 years ago from England Author

@DDE @CraftytotheCore - thanks ever so much for your input.


CraftytotheCore profile image

CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

I never realized there were so many diseases contributed from strep throat. When I was around 4, I had my tonsils out because I had re-occurring strep. I can't recall the last time I had a sore throat. All very good advice and well-written!


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Most helpful information for sore throats, a sore throat can be painful and most uncomfortable, with these ways I can ease the pain


JCielo profile image

JCielo 3 years ago from England Author

Thanks AliciaC. Yes, everyone suffers from sore throats from time to time, the problem being, what to do about them. Hopefully, some of these tips will help.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is a very useful hub, JCielo! Thank you for all the information and suggestions. Having a sore throat is a miserable experience, especially when we swallow. It's great to learn more about the situation by reading your hub.


JCielo profile image

JCielo 3 years ago from England Author

Thanks for stopping by peachpurple. And thanks for telling us all about the remedy that worked for you. Garlic really is a super food.


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

great sore throat hub. I have tried smashing raw garlic into pulp and soak with hot water in a small bowl, drink it up slowly for 5 days. The sore throat went away. Save some money on the doctor fee. Voted up

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