How to Treat a Sore Throat

By Stephanie Watson and Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
December 04, 2023
How to Treat a Sore Throat

Many effective treatments for sore throats don’t require a trip to your doctor or pharmacy. Here's how to treat your sore throat with home remedies. 

Fall and winter are prime times for scratchy, raw throats, thanks to the variety of viruses in circulation and drier indoor air. To soothe your sore throat pain, you can turn to these home remedies for sore throats. You’ll find them in both your medicine cabinet and kitchen cabinets.


YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: 8 Natural Cold and Flu Remedies


How to treat a sore throat with fluids

Drinking a few extra glasses of water or fruit juice is always good advice when you have an upper respiratory infection. The extra liquid loosens mucus and replaces fluid your body loses to fever. Warm liquids — such as tea, hot cocoa, or chicken broth — feel especially soothing on your throat. You can also suck on a popsicle or ice chips to cool the irritation.

Gargle with warm salt water

It’s possible that gargling three times a day with salt water helps prevent upper respiratory infections. Although there’s no real evidence gargling will relieve your sore throat, there’s no harm in trying it.

Mix about ½ teaspoon of salt in an 8-ounce glass of warm water and gargle throughout the day if the mixture helps you.

Suck on a lozenge

You can buy medicated cough drops to moisten your throat, but any hard candy will also help. Keep a stock of suckers by your bed for those mornings when you wake up feeling like a desert has settled around your tonsils.

“Having lozenges or hard candies — or anything that stimulates saliva production — will keep your throat moist,” said Valerie Riddle, MD, an infectious disease expert in Tampa, Fla.

Don’t give lozenges to children younger than 3 because of the choking risk.

Moisten the air

Dry air is often the cause of winter scratchiness. Turn on a cool-mist humidifier to add moisture to the air and your throat.

Spray your throat

The sprays you buy at your local pharmacy contain an anesthetic (typically benzocaine) that numbs the back of your throat. Sprays won’t eliminate a sore throat, but they can temporarily ease the pain.

Use caution with such products if you give them to children. The active ingredient in some throat sprays can cause allergic reactions.

Take an over-the-counter pain reliever

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) relieve pain throughout your body, including in your throat.

Don’t smoke

This general health advice also applies when you’re sick. Cigarette smoke is loaded with toxic chemicals that irritate the throat.

Vaping with products that contain propylene glycol can also cause throat discomfort. Switch to a product that uses a liquid with vegetable glycerin instead.

When to see a doctor

Because viruses trigger most sore throats, an antibiotic prescription is usually unnecessary and unlikely to help.

“Most sore throats should be treated with rest and fluids and do not require a visit to the doctor,” said Michael L. Barnett, MD, an internist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston.

The time to see your doctor is when your throat becomes really painful or continues to hurt a week or more after your illness started.

Also call for an appointment if you have throat pain plus more serious symptoms, such as:

  • A fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • A rash
  • Joint pain


YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: 8 Cold and Flu Myths


December 04, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN