Does it feel like your throat is burning or on fire? Or, are you experiencing pain, irritation, or discomfort that gets worse when you swallow? Sometimes a sore throat is the only symptom you notice. But, more often than not, a sore throat happens along with other symptoms such as a runny nose, swollen glands, coughing, a fever, swollen tonsils, a hoarse voice, and more.
What Causes Sore Throats?
Most sore throats are symptoms of viral infections, such as the flu or the common cold. These upper respiratory infections can be treated at home, and the symptoms will usually subside after a few days with rest and hydration.
Occasionally, a sore throat is caused by a strep infection. Strep throat is the diagnosis when the streptococcal bacteria is the cause of an infection, and usually requires antibiotic treatment to avoid complications.
Other causes of sore throats can include allergies, dry weather, muscle strain, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or cancer.
Treatment Options: Home Remedies for a Sore Throat
Minor or moderate sore throats can be treated at home. Since a sore throat is often a symptom of another health concern (such as a virus), the treatments are designed to reduce your discomfort and promote overall healing. Here are a few treatment options you can try:
1. Saltwater Gargle: Add ½ teaspoon table salt to 8 ounces of warm water. Stir to dissolve, then gargle the solution. Spit out the saltwater solution and repeat every three hours. An alternative is to gargle a baking soda solution instead of saltwater.
2. Throat Lozenges: Buy throat lozenges from a local drugstore, or suck on hard candy. This remedy keeps the saliva flowing to soothe the throat. Don’t give hard candy to children under the age of 4.
3. Pain Medication: Acetaminophen or ibuprofen are common over-the-counter medications that can be used to manage pain. These medications are also beneficial if a fever is present with a sore throat. You can also find lidocaine sprays that can be used to numb the throat and provide temporary relief.
4. Dietary Recommendations: Choose comforting foods that soothe the throat, such as broth, soup, tea, or popsicles. Avoid crunchy or hard foods that might irritate the throat, such as chips or cold cereal.
5. Honey: Add honey to a cup of tea, or swallow a small spoonful. Choose raw, unfiltered honey for the best benefits for pain relief and fighting infection.
6. Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids is important to keep the throat moist and comfortable. Choose teas that soothe the throat and boost the immune system, such as licorice root, peppermint, ginger, or marshmallow root. Lemon water can be another option to reduce throat pain; add a bit of honey to lemon water for a delicious, healing drink. Try warm and cold drinks to see what works best for you.
7. Humidifier: Sore throat symptoms can be intensified by dry weather. Avoid this irritation by using a cool-air humidifier in your bedroom. It can also be helpful to steam the upper respiratory tract by taking a warm bath or shower. Sitting in the steamy bathroom can provide relief.
Also, don’t overlook the importance of basic self-care such as sleep, a healthy diet, and taking it easy for a few days. A sore throat is an indication that your body is fighting an illness, so you should give yourself time to recover. It is smart to take a few days away from work or school, especially with a viral or bacterial illness that could be contagious.
When to See a Doctor for Sore Throat Treatment
If the sore throat symptoms intensify or don’t go away after a few days, then it might be time to talk to a doctor for a diagnosis. Determining the cause of the sore throat is important in choosing the right treatment plan. A doctor can use a simple throat swab test to determine if it is strep throat or culture to look for other types of bacteria.
Here are a few signs that it is time to schedule an appointment with an ENT:
- The sore throat lasts longer than a week
- Visible white patches in the back of the throat
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Swelling in the neck or face
- Blood in your phlegm or saliva
- A lump in the neck
- Hoarseness lasting for more than 2-3 weeks
- Sore throats that occur frequently
If you need a medical consultation for a sore throat, or any other health condition affecting your ears, nose, or throat, then our team is here to assist. Contact us to schedule a consultation with an experienced ENT.
Are you located in the Dallas area? Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat is a reputable provider in the community. We have several offices nearby in the Frisco and Plano areas: (972) 596-4005