When people have a sore throat, they may experience a scratchy sensation in their throat, experience difficulty swallowing, or have sore or swollen glands in the neck or jaw.

Sneezing, coughing, runny nose, and fever are symptoms that also sometimes accompany sore throat.

People usually recover from a sore throat in just 3-4 days, though complications can occur in some cases. One serious complication of sore throat – rheumatic fever – affects the heart and joints.

There are several things that people with sore throats can do to relieve their symptoms. This article will look at what natural remedies are available, as well as other treatment options and causes.

If someone has a sore throat, they can help their recovery by taking the following steps:

  • getting plenty of rest
  • eating a healthful diet
  • drinking plenty of fluids
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Gargling with warm salt water and drinking a warm honey and lemon drink may help to alleviate symptoms of a sore throat.

There are other things that can help reduce pain and alleviate symptoms as well.

One easy remedy for sore throat is gargling with warm saltwater. Half a teaspoon of salt can be mixed into a glass of warm water. Too much salt in the mixture, however, could further dry out the membranes of the throat.

It is also important not to swallow the salt. Users should simply rinse the mouth with the saltwater and spit it out. People with a sore throat may want to consider adding a teaspoonful of apple cider vinegar to their saltwater gargle, as it has antibacterial properties.

The American Cancer Society recommend gargling with a mixture of 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 quart of water.

People with sore throats could also add a spoonful of honey or lemon to a warm drink, which can help to soothe the throat.

Other ingredients that people can add to warm water to soothe a sore throat include sage, turmeric, and goldenseal. However, people should note that more research is needed on the health effects of these herbs.

As hot fluids can help to thin and drain mucus and keep people hydrated, soup may also be effective.

Although not everyone finds it very pleasant to do so, some people find chewing on a raw clove of garlic helps sore throat. This may be because garlic contains a compound called allicin that has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.

People should not make the mistake of thinking cooked garlic is an equally effective alternative to eating the raw ingredient. Allicin is activated by chewing, chopping, or crushing garlic, but is deactivated by heat. As a result, cooking garlic actually lowers its healing potential.

More research is needed to confirm the claims about the health benefits of garlic for a sore throat.

Somewhat more appealing may be sucking hard candies. Like lozenges or cough drops, hard candies keep the throat lubricated by stimulating the production of saliva. Hard candies are a choking hazard, however, so caregivers should not give them to young children or toddlers.

Sucking on ice chips and eating frozen foods like popsicles is another simple, effective way to alleviate symptoms. The cold temperatures can soothe pain in the throat.

People with sore throats should avoid caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, as these beverages can be dehydrating.

People can use sprays to numb the pain of a sore throat. These sprays, which are available over the counter, include dyclonine and phenol.

Commonly available painkillers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen may also help. Caregivers should avoid giving aspirin to children or teenagers.

Prescription medicines such as antibiotics are not usually used to treat sore throat. Research shows that the use of antibiotics only shortens the duration of symptoms by about 16 hours overall.

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A sore throat may be caused by a cold or the flu.

Common causes of sore throat include:

  • viruses such as a cold or the flu
  • dry air
  • pollution
  • smoking or exposure to smoke
  • allergies

Children and teens are more at risk of getting a sore throat than adults. Exposure to someone else with sore throat, having irregularly shaped or large tonsils, or having a weak immune system can all increase risk of sore throat.

Sore throats are sometimes caused by the Streptococcus group of bacteria. This type of sore throat is called strep throat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 20-30 of every 100 sore throats in children are strep throat. Among adults, strep throat accounts for 5-15 out of every 100 sore throats.

When to see a doctor

Although sore throats are common and often go away without trouble, there are some occasions where medical help is needed.

People with a sore throat should seek medical attention if they have:

  • a sore throat that has lasted longer than 1 week
  • difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • a temperature higher than 100.4°F
  • a rash
  • joint pain
  • blood in the saliva or phlegm

If a young child has a sore throat and a fever, then it is important for caregivers to call a healthcare professional immediately.

Learn more about the causes of a sore throat.