Waking up with a sore throat can really throw a wrench into your plans for the day. Sore throats are painful, distracting, and may be the first sign of an impending cold. As it goes with all medical maladies, there’s a ton of misinformation on the subject. So, today on Healthversed, we cut through the clutter and bring you the facts!
Today, we’ll explore the symptoms and causes of sore throats and then break down a few, easy-to-follow strategies that may bring you relief. So, call in sick, grab a lozenge, and settle in for Healthversed’s exploration of the dastardly sore throat.
What is a Sore Throat?
A sore throat is a common medical condition that’s often marked by pain in the throat and often caused by cold or virus-induced inflammation.
Most sore throats are caused by viral infections (think a cold or the flu). Symptoms of this type of sore throat may include a scratchy sensation or pain in the throat that gets worse when talking or swallowing, sore or swollen glands in the jaw, a hoarse or muffled voice, and more. These infections are typically associated with runny noses and coughs.
Strep Throat and Tonsillitis
Viral sore throats aren’t the only category of sore throat, though. Strep throat shares many similarities with the common sore throat, except it’s much more serious. Strep, however, is a bacterial infection that appears on its own, without the runny nose or cough. Strep is contagious, and is contracted through contact with another strep throat sufferer.
Tonsillitis often presents symptoms similar to those of a sore throat: swelling, trouble swallowing, white spots on the tonsils. A fever (101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) is often present in the cases of both strep throat and tonsillitis. So, if you have a fever or if your sore throat has lasted longer than five days, stop reading right now and visit your doctor.
If you’ve seen a doctor or are convinced that you’re dealing with nothing other than a standard, run-of-the-mill sore throat, then get ready for some sore throat-busting strategies!
Drink Lots of Fluids
When waging the proverbial battle against the common cold, proper hydration is critical. More so for a sore throat. Proper hydration will help you produce saliva and mucus, and help keep your throat lubricated. This is incredibly important because a dry throat can often worsen swelling, inflammation, and the other previously discussed symptoms.
You’ll also want to avoid diuretics like coffee and alcohol while you’re sick. Those liquids increase the amount of water and salt expelled from your body as urine, and work against your hydration levels.
Gargle Salt Water
You don’t have to shell out a pocketful of dollars to treat your run-of-the-mill sore throat effectively. All you need is a little bit of salt and water. That’s right! Gargling salt water a few times a day has been shown to reduce swelling in the throat, break up mucus, and flush out that nasty bacteria.
Simply dissolve half of a teaspoon of salt in to a cup of warm water, gargle, and spit. Three times a day should be enough, but the more often you do it, the more relief you should feel!
If salt water isn’t your style, you could do far worse than a cup of herbal tea, provided that the temperature of the tea isn’t too hot.
Tea is loaded with immune system strengthening antioxidants, too. It’s important to understand, though, that a cup of tea isn’t going to soothe your sore throat outright. It should provide you with some much-needed relief of your symptoms.
Chicken soup does double duty in the instance of a common sore throat. Much like tea, its warm properties can help soothe an aching throat. But more than that, soup is perfect for a hungry person who experiences pain while swallowing.
Let’s get real, you’re not going to be eating chicken wings or pizza while suffering from a sore throat. It’s far too painful. So, head on over to the grocery store and stock up on soup! Or, better yet, get someone to pick it up for you.
Sore throats suck. But on the bright side, they’re a welcome excuse to cancel your plans, turn on the TV, and get some rest.
Illnesses, even ones as seemingly manageable as the common cold, require rest. More sleep and less time on your feet will help provide your body with the extra edge that it needs to fight against whatever infection is causing your sore throat. On the other hand, depriving your body of the rest it needs can drag on your cold symptoms for days and sometimes even weeks. So, get some rest!
Yes, it sounds gross and uncomfortable, but nasal rinsing has been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of a sore throat.
The principle is simple. The sore throat sufferer “snorts” salt water to flush out debris and rehydrate mucous and tissues in the nose and throat. You can opt for the caveman route by cupping your hands or you can try the more civilized option by picking up a neti pot or a nasal saline irrigation system. It may be awkward and uncomfortable, but it should provide you with some relief and may expedite your recovery.
Honey has been used to help take the edge off cold and flu symptoms for a long, long time. But the use of honey to treat a sore throat is more than just an age-old tradition. A few drops of honey in a cup of warm tea can soothe your raw throat and, as research has shown, honey can act as a natural cough suppressant. It also, according to the cultural mother-figure of the Western world, helps the medicine go down.
Another benefit of being holed up at home with an itchy and scratchy throat is that no one will judge you when you mow down a box of Popsicles in a day or two.
Popsicles are delicious, sure. But, much like an ice cube on a skin-level scrape, they can help soothe the pain of a sore throat. So add Popsicles to your grocery list or, if you’re feeling particularly ambitions, make your own!
Lozenges, or the little hard candies that you can find lining the counter at your local grocery store or pharmacy, may also provide you with some much-needed pain relief.
Some taste awful while others taste great, but the principle is always the same. Lozenges encourage the production of saliva in the mouth in order to keep the throat moist. Some even use honey or tea extracts to soothe and supress coughs.
Get a Humidifier
I get that humidifiers can seem like a bit of a pricey acquisition to treat something as fleeting and temporary as a sore throat. Humidifiers, of course, can cost hundreds of dollars. But, the thing about humidifiers is that they actually work.
Humidifiers moisten the air that you breathe and, in the case of a sore throat, can help alleviate symptoms. We’ve been over it before, but it bears repeating. Sore throat relief is a matter of lubrication. A moist throat means a healthy throat. So, go on and pick up that humidifier. You won’t regret it.
Not willing to shell out the cash for a brand new (or gently used) humidifier? Well you can mimic the machine’s affect with your shower too!
Just close the door to your bathroom, jack your shower to max heat and breathe deeply. You can also boil water on your stove and place a towel over your head (and the pot), and get your daily dose of steam that way. The steam, of course, can ease the swelling and help soothe your sore throat.
As previously stated, sometimes a sore throat is much more than a symptom of a common cold. It could be strep throat or tonsillitis. Typically, a regular, run-of-the-mill sore throat will last only a few days. If it lasts longer, or if none of the above strategies are helping, you can always reach out to your family doctor and request antibiotics. Either way, you’re probably going to have to tough it out for a few days.