14. How to Soothe a Sore Throat

Sore throats range from a mere scratch to pain so severe that swallowing nothing more than saliva is uncomfortable. The cause of all this misery can be either a virus or bacteria. Viral sore throats are the more common of the two and don’t respond to antibiotics; bacterial ones do. So it’s important to know what kind of germ is causing your sore throat.

Bacterial sore throats are most often caused by streptococcus (strep throat) and usually bring a high fever, headache, or swollen, enlarged neck glands with them. Viral sore throats generally don’t. But even doctors have trouble diagnosing a sore throat based on symptoms alone. (A child with a bacterial sore throat may have no other symptoms, for example.) And if left untreated, serious complications, including abscesses, kidney inflammation, or rheumatic heart disease, could arise from a strep throat. So your doctor may take a throat culture. If strep or other bacteria are the culprits, he or she may prescribe an antibiotic.

You can take some steps to relieve sore throat discomfort:

  1. Gargle every few hours with a solution of 1/4 teaspoon of salt dissolved in 1/2 cup of warm water.

  2. Drink plenty of warm beverages, such as tea (with or without honey) and soup.

  3. Use a vaporizer or humidifier in the room where you spend most of your time.

  4. Don’t smoke. Avoid secondhand smoke.

  5. Avoid eating spicy foods.

  6. Suck on a piece of hard candy or medicated lozenge every so often. (Do not give to children under age 5.)

  7. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever for the pain or fever (or both). (Note: Anyone under 19 years old, however, shouldn’t take aspirin for chicken pox or flu-like symptoms because of its association with Reye’s syndrome, a potentially fatal condition that is discussed in chapter 2, Major Medical Conditions: Prevention, Detection, and Treatment.)

Chapter 1
  1. Fast Relief for Everyday Health Problems