5 Ways to Soothe a Sore Throat

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A sore throat can be the first sign of a cold, a side effect of strained vocal cords, or an indication of something more serious (like strep throat).

Regardless of the cause, your immediate concern when soreness strikes is how to get relief, fast. You may be tempted to run to your doctor, but some of the best treatments are home remedies and over-the-counter meds, says Jeffrey Linder, M.D., an internist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston.

Here are 5 to try the next time you're feeling scratchy, hoarse, or just plain sick.

1.    Anti-inflammatories
One of the most effective treatments for sore throat is probably already in your medicine cabinet: an over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as Advil or Aleve.

"These medicines are combination pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, so they'll make you feel better and they'll also reduce some of the swelling associated with a sore throat," Dr. Linder says. "If you have a fever that's also contributing to your symptoms, they can help reduce that as well."

2.    Saltwater gargle
Several studies have found that gargling several times a day with warm salt water can reduce swelling in the throat and loosen mucus, helping to flush out irritants or bacteria.

Doctors generally recommend dissolving half a teaspoon of salt in one cup of water. If the salty taste is too unpleasant for you, try adding a small amount of honey to sweeten the mixture slightly. (Just remember to spit the water out after gargling, rather than swallowing!)

3.    Lozenges and sprays
Sucking on cough drops stimulates saliva production, which can help keep your throat moist. But many varieties are no more effective than hard candies, Dr. Linder says. For an added benefit, choose brands with a cooling or numbing ingredient, like menthol or eucalyptus.

Over-the-counter sprays like Chloraseptic produce an effect similar to cooling lozenges. They won't cure your sore throat or help you fight off the underlying cold, but they may help dull the pain temporarily. Chloraseptic's active ingredient, phenol, is a local antiseptic that also has antibacterial properties, Dr. Linder says.

4.    Cough syrup
Even if you don't have a cough (yet), over-the-counter cough syrups can help ease soreness. Like drops and sprays, they coat the throat and provide temporary pain relief.

If you're headed to work, be sure to choose a non-drowsy formula. But if you're having trouble sleeping due to a sore throat, a nighttime formula like NyQuil (which contains a pain reliever and an antihistamine) or Robitussin AC (guaifenesin and codeine) can relieve pain and help you get some shuteye.

5.    Fluids
"Staying hydrated is very important, especially when you're sick and your throat is irritated or inflamed," Dr. Linder says. "You should be drinking enough fluid so that your urine is light yellow or clear. This keeps your mucous membranes moist and better able to combat bacteria and irritants like allergens, and makes your body better able to fight back against other cold symptoms."

What you drink is up to you, Linder adds. Water always works (ice cubes, too!), but you can also change it up with something slightly sugary, like a watered-down fruit juice, or something salty, like chicken broth.

Resource: Health.com


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