When your throat hurts it’s because it has been irritated which can happen for many reasons. Among the most common are post-nasal drip, chronic allergies, pollution, or cold/flu. Sometimes you can strain yourself so much from singing, cheering, or screaming. With sore throats there are really two types: Infectious and non-infectious. If yours is accompanied by a fever, it’s infectious. Non-infectious sore throats like those you get from singing too long are much easier to treat. If you’ve recently vomited, and your throat hurts from that (or from GERD or reflux, scroll down to #6 below).
The throat discomfort is usually mild and self-limited, however sometimes a sore throat gets so bad that you need more than a Popsicle®! Medically termed pharyngitis, or tonsillitis, these just mean that something back there is inflamed, red and hurting! Whatever you want to call it, it can become super uncomfortable, and it’s going around lately now.
Today’s article will offer good ideas that can soothe the situation so you can swallow with more comfort and ease.
If you read my suggestions and think of any more that you’ve tried, feel free to email me email@example.com so I can add them to the list here.
Before you try the following medications or remedies listed below, please make sure you see a doctor if you have a sore throat that is accompanied by other symptoms that could mean serious infection. More specifically, a sore throat is an early symptom of the Omicron variant (and other variants associated with C*V1D – 19), and may be accompanied by other symptoms that require medical attention. Sore throats are also part of infectious mononucleosis, and I remember that one well because I had it when I was 17.
Strep throat is another condition that will require more than my simple hacks today because it is a bacterial infection, it’s not viral. Strep throat is often hallmarked by the painful, sharp sensation of razor blades or chards of glass in the throat. It can be very painful and make it hard to talk actually. It also usually features whitish, or yellow pustules in the back in the throat. Strep throat sometimes (often actually) requires an antibiotic along with palliative measures below. The image below may help you determine whether or not your throat pain is related to a viral or bacterial infection, however, this is not to be construed as medical advice. Only your doctor and/or a rapid strep test (sold online) can say if it’s positive or negative for strep, a peek in the mirror is just a guess!
My focus isn’t strep today, it’s actually much simpler. I’d like to help you relieve the pain, redness and inflammation of a sore throat. You can see your doctor for the antibiotics or antivirals if you need those.
Here are 6 incredibly fast-acting ways to soothe your sore throat:
1. Salt Water Gargle
Gargling with saltwater is a well-known remedy to help with throat pain. Saltwater helps by reducing inflammation and pain in the area. It can drive out some pathogens in the tissue simply by making your throat less hospitable to them! Here’s a recipe that’s even better than salt water.
Recipe for Salt Water Gargle Recipe
8 oz cool water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt (or Real® salt if you have)
Combine about 5 to 6 drops (total) of essential oils using any of these or a combination:
Eucalyptus, peppermint, thyme, On Guard® or Thieves® or oregano.
Optional: If you have a bottle of spilanthes extract, put about 10 drops in there too!
Stir together and gargle with this very 3 to 4 hours.
2. Lozenges or throat sprays.
The lozenge you choose is entirely up to you, but most of them contain menthol, benzocaine, dyclonine, honey, or eucalyptus, and more! Each ingredient does something slightly different, but they’re all similar in that they act to anesthetize your throat for a few minutes so you swallow better and find more comfort. Lozenges are not generally curative, they’re mainly for symptomatic relief, although eucalyptus does have some ‘kill’ action. If you want to numb your throat choose one like Sucrets® that contains dyclonine, or Chloraseptic® which has benzocaine in it. If you want cough relief, menthol is useful. The honey lozenges are okay, but they’re not going to numb the area. Follow label directions because there are guidelines on the label stating how many you can take per day.
Lozenges will frequently make you make saliva, and that can be a challenge because you have to keep swallowing and when your throat hurts, you don’t want to swallow that frequently. If this is the case for you, a better option is a throat spray which works on contact and uses similar ingredients to lozenges. I also recommend sprays at night because sucking a lozenge is dangerous if you should fall asleep and then choke on it! Chloraseptic® has their own brand, and then there’s Vick’s VapoCool, and many others at any local pharmacy or e-tailer.
There are literally hundreds of excellent choices of lozenges and sprays so it’s impossible to list them all. That said, I have tried and tested some of these and feel they are worthy of your consideration. If you feel I’ve missed something outstanding, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add it to this list:
a) Sambucus Elderberry Zinc Lozenges (peppermint flavor is cooling) – These taste like a berry (kind of like candy), and contain 5mg of zinc and 90mg of vitamin C. If you hate that medicinal taste, or the cooling sensations (but you also want some immunosupportive ingredients for an infectious sore throat), these would be perfect.
b) Herb Pharm’s Soothing Throat Spray – Every spray contains a proprietary blend of herbs. It has some Hyssop, sage, propolis, St John’s wort and echinacea root. It’s pretty neutral on the throat meaning it doesn’t cool it, or warm it like some throat sprays do. It allows you to do spot treatments and topically apply herbs with tremendous anti-infective power. It contains some alcohol in the blend (to extract the herbs), however it is gluten free. This one would be better for infectious sore throats, however, you could use it for non-infectious too.
c) Singer’s Cool Mint Soothing Throat Spray – This is another throat spray that contains a proprietary blend of herbs. Each squirt has some yerba mansa root, stoneroot, licorice root, propolis (which is bee-derived so be careful if you are allergic to that), echinacea, ginger root and something called “Jack in the pulpit root.” I had to look that last one up – apparently it’s an antiseptic and no one really knows how it got its name. It definitely has a zing to it when you spray it, but it’s instantly cooling. This is okay for non-infectious sore throats, but probably better for infectious due to it containing the echinacea and propolis.
d) Bee Propolis Throat Spray Naturally Soothing by Natural Factors – Two sprays of this gives you some of their proprietary blend of licorice root, slippery elm, clove, forsythia fruit extract, bee propolis, myrrh, goldenseal and echinacea. This doesn’t taste so good (probably from the myrrh which is an amazing antimicrobial herb), but it’s effective in terms of delivering a powerful punch to your throat. I would say this is better for the infectious type of sore throat, and it will numb the pain for a few minutes.
e) Sovereign Silver Bio-active Silver Hydrosol Spray 2 oz – Silver goes after bacteria, it has strong antimicrobial activity (against certain bacteria, not virus). It’s an antioxidant, and the nanoparticles of silver have been studied for their ability to work on gram negative and gram positive organisms only. It’s could be useful for antioxidant support. Sometimes dentists recommend colloidal silver for toothaches or gum pain.
f) Manuka Honey Drops Lemon by Wedderspoon – These are really tasty, but like all lozenges, they will make you make saliva. That’s okay for most people because it keeps your throat moist and comfy, however, if swallowing is a major pain, stick to a spray on your throat. If you can do a lozenge, this brand is delicious and it comes in different flavors other than lemon. It is not cooling, it is more like a honey lemon drop. It will not numb you.
3. A spoonful of honey.
For adults, a spoonful of honey is soothing to a scratchy, sore throat especially if it is accompanied by a cough. Raw honey contains natural antibacterial agents such as bee pollen and bee propolis, which is a sticky, gooey substance that bees use to construct their beehive. These and other naturally-occurring compounds in raw honey are useful as immunosupportive substances.Honey is incredibly fast acting and will lubricate and soothe a throat that is too dry (for example, you took an antihistamine hours before and woke up with your throat dry!). Also, if you reside in dry areas of the country like Arizona, New Mexico or Colorado. Do not give honey to babies younger than a year or two.
Recipe for Medicinal honey:
1 tablespoon of honey, Manuka® brand is a popular one, but any kind would help!
1 drop of lemon essential oil in it
Just stir together, and eat the honey off the spoon
4. Sip herbal teas.
You can have it iced or warm. The temperature of the tea is completely your preference. Even when my throat is sore, I still prefer warm herbal tea, over iced tea. There are commercial tea bags made specifically for sore throats, and labeled as such at most grocery stores. If you have an herbal apothecary like me, mix up your own blend. For example, you can use a combination of any of these: Elderberries, spearmint (or peppermint), plantain, slippery elm bark, marshmallow root, ginger, turmeric or jasmine. Adding some dried orange peel will add some vitamin C to your tea and that boosts immune function.
UPDATE added 1-4-22 this tip came from Kelli C. She writes: Please add to the list, Fresh ginger tea with honey. Must be fresh and not dried. This is per Stephen Buhner, well known herbalist.
5. Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen.
These analgesics listed here are great antipyretics, that’s why they’re useful for both fever and pain. You know them as Advil® and Motrin® (ibuprofen) and Tylenol® (acetaminophen).
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention these analgesics becuase they can take down the swelling of a sore throat and allow you temporary relief so you can take in nourishment and food. But the trick is to not use these if your fever is mild. You need your body to heat up, that’s what a fever does. When you heat up, you cook the organisms that have invaded you. That’s exactly how you mount a fight and I feel the need to make this clear because so many people treat a mild fever when they shouldn’t.
So if you can hold off on these analgesics, it would be ideal. Of course, you should use them if your fever spikes to 102 degrees, or higher.
6. Acid blockers.
If your throat is sore from reflux, and a bad night of heartburn from something you ate, you will be uncomfortable for a day or two. This type of sore throat is not infectious, and the remedies above are not going to work. In this case, you can soothe a sore throat with something like famotidine (Pepcid®) which is an acid blocker that works for about 12 hours. For 24 hour relief, you could try omeprazole (Prilosec®) and take one of those. Do not take any important medications within 2 hours of administration of these acid blockers or you will negate their effect. Since these drugs are available over-the-counter in pretty much every grocery store, gas station, pharmacy, big box store and everywhere… please do not use them indiscriminately. They do have side effects, and they are for short-term use. Please ask your doctor if it is right for you.
In closing, if you develop a high fever, chills or see a buildup of pus near your tonsils, or any other symptoms that are indicative of infection, please see your practitioner and get proper antiviral or antibiotic treatment.