We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.
A sore throat can make swallowing painful and difficult. When that happens, it is hard to know what to eat and drink. Even so, the body still needs nutrients to help it heal.
Eating and drinking the right things can also reduce the pain of a sore throat and may even speed the recovery process. Avoiding inappropriate foods can prevent some discomfort.
The best things to eat and drink with a sore throat will be nutritious or soft and soothing, or sometimes both. People should be careful that their drinks are not too hot, as a throat that is already inflamed is more susceptible to injury.
Things to eat and drink include:
Frozen treats: Fruit-based sherbet and popsicles, and even plain ice chips can help soothe a throat that feels inflamed.
Bananas: As they are a soft and healthful fruit, bananas will be gentle on a sore throat.
Chicken soup: In the past, research has suggested that the vegetables and chicken in chicken soup may have anti-inflammatory properties and help clear the airways, which can reduce sore throat symptoms.
Ginger: This spice is available in many forms, including teas and powders. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that may help sore throats by reducing swelling and pain.
Tip: Make ginger tea by boiling a spoonful of chopped, fresh ginger in half-a-pint of water. Add more ginger for a stronger flavor.
Tea: Warm teas can help a person with a sore throat feel better. One study found that gargling a green tea solution eased a sore throat after surgery. The authors note that green tea is a harmless and natural substance with anti-inflammatory properties. People may find various herbal teas helpful, despite the lack of scientific evidence for their use.
Smoothies and yogurt: Soft, moist foods that people can drink through a straw can help provide the nutrition the body needs for healing while soothing a sore throat.
Well-cooked vegetables: Carrots, cabbage, potatoes, and other vegetables provide essential nutrients for someone with a sore throat. Tip: Cook root vegetables until they are tender and mash with low fat milk and turmeric.
Scrambled eggs: Eggs are a good source of protein, which the body needs for tissue repair. Scrambled eggs are usually soft enough for an inflamed throat to tolerate.
Jello: This is easy to swallow and contains gelatin, which is a good source of protein. Jello can be high in sugar, but sugar-free versions are available. This energy source can be useful if a person is not consuming the calories they need, but those with diabetes should account for the sugar in their daily diet.
When a sore throat makes it difficult and painful to swallow, there are a number of foods and drinks to avoid.
Crunchy, hard foods: Foods that are likely to have a lot of sharp edges, such as crackers, dry toast, nuts, or raw vegetables, can make a sore throat more uncomfortable.
Citrus fruits and juices: Many people turn to orange juice when they have a cold as a source of vitamin C. However, citrus juices can make sore throats feel worse due to their acidity. This means they can irritate the already tender surface of the throat. Also, research has not confirmed that taking vitamin C can help cure a cold or sore throat.
Sour, pickled, or brined foods: Foods made with vinegar or salt, such as pickles, can worsen the inflammation of a sore throat.
Tomato juice and sauces: The acidic nature of tomatoes can make them a poor choice for people with sore throats.
Irritating spices: Some spices and spicy foods may help a sore throat, but others, such as chilies, hot sauces, and nutmeg can make the inflammation worse.
Alcohol: Drinks and mouthwashes that contain alcohol may cause a stinging sensation in a sore throat. Alcohol is also dehydrating, which is not helpful for a person with a sore throat.
People should also avoid smoking, including secondhand smoke, when they have a sore throat.
Other remedies that can help ease the symptoms of a sore throat include:
Staying hydrated: When the throat becomes dry, it can hurt more. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend keeping a sore throat moist by drinking plenty of fluid or sucking on lozenges.
Humidity: Dry air can make sore throats feel worse. Using a humidifier to keep the air moist can provide some relief.
Gargling: Rinsing the throat with warm salt water can reduce inflammation. Individuals should add salt to warm water in a ratio that works best for them.
Throat lozenges: Cough drops and even hard candies may provide relief.
Staying cool: People should avoiding very hot foods and drinks to limit further throat irritation.
Over-the-counter pain relief medication: Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen can reduce symptoms. Due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome, children under 18 years of age should not take aspirin.
People should see a doctor if a sore throat lasts 6 days or more, or they have a fever or other symptoms.
Sore throat from a virus
If a sore throat is due to a virus, people can usually treat it with home remedies.
Apart from a sore throat, symptoms often include:
- runny nose
- raspy voice
- pink eye
Sore throat from an allergy
If an allergen or pollutant, such as smoke, causes a sore throat, the best option is to avoid the trigger, if possible.
Bacterial sore throat
A sore throat that results from a bacterial infection will need medical treatment.
Some cases are due to strep throat, an infection that group A Streptococcus bacteria cause.
It can be difficult to tell whether a sore throat poses a further risk or not. However, because of the risk of complications, it is best to get medical help for strep throat as soon as possible.
The following are common symptoms of strep throat.:
- painful, sore throat
- persistent, low-grade fever
- high fever
- difficulty swallowing
- absence of a cough
- swollen lymph nodes
- inflamed tonsils, with white patches or pus
- small red spots on the roof of the mouth
The more symptoms a person has, the more likely it is that they have strep throat and need prompt medical care.
Click here for a guide to recognizing strep throat.
A sore throat is a common occurrence, and home remedies are often enough to treat the condition. Soft, soothing foods and drinks are the best option.
If symptoms persist or if a person has a fever, they should see a doctor.
Is lemon and honey a good choice for a sore throat?
Lemons help break up mucus in the back of the throat. Honey is soothing on the raw throat, has anti-inflammatory properties, and helps reduce coughing. A warm tea with honey and lemon is a great choice to help heal a sore throat. Do not give honey to children under 1 year.Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.