Home Remedies for Sore Throat and Strep Throat Symptoms
Sore throats are very common and most people experience pain, discomfort or scratchiness in the throat about once a month in winter. A severe sore throat can make it painful and hard to swallow. Sore throats can be caused by a large number of things, and most sore throats are not serious and generally run their course after one or two days. Viruses are the most common cause of sore throats associated with colds and flu, and because there is no effective way of killing the virus, most treatments are focused on reliving the symptoms. Bacteria can cause serious sore throats, that can be treated with antibiotics that don't work on viruses. Sore throats can also be caused by smoking, contaminated or very dry air, drinking alcohol, and may be associated with allergies such as hay fever and other allergies.
Strep throat is more serious and is caused by Streptococcus bacteria, which is the bacteria that also causes rheumatic fever. Only about 34% of sore throats in children and 7% of adult sore throats are generally caused by strep. Sore throats caused by strep can be serious and require a trip to the doctor to get an antibiotic.
What are the common symptoms of the sore throats ?
Symptoms of a sore throat caused by virus, bacteria, allergies or various environmental factors may include:
- Painful red throat
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Swollen tonsils
- Swollen lymph glands in the neck
- Coughing and sneezing
- Ear aches
Home Remedies for a Sore Throat - Alleviating the Symptoms
Generally, sore throats will run their course, except for strep throat and other bacterial infections. If the sore throat is severe and is prolonged and associated with high fever people should see their doctor.
- For a simple and generally effective relief of sore-throats try a saltwater gargle. Salt is known to have mild antiseptic properties, and also helps draw water out of inflamed mucous membranes, which can helps to clear phlegm and congestion. Try dissolving about 1/2 teaspoon of salt added to a glass of warm water, gargle briefly and spit out. Repeat the gargling three to four times a day.
- Alternatively, you can gargle with a baking-soda solution (1/2 a teaspoon in a glass of warm water). Sage and other herbs can be added to the gargle solutions.
- Run a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer in your bedroom. Adding moisture to the air will help stop the throat from becoming too dry and helps with breathing if there is congestion. If you don't have a humidifier or cannot hire one, you can simply use a shallow container of water placed near your heater, or airflow pathway, to provide moisture in the air. Ensure the pan of water is placed in a safe location away from electrical devices.
- Prevent chronic dehydration associated with a sore throat. Fluids may help soothe an irritated throat, thin secretions and reduce congestion. Drink plenty of hot or warm fluids, such as tea, herbal infusions, warm lemon juice and honey or soup, will help to keep the fluids up and prevent dehydration.
- Various nonprescription medicines can help relieve the symptoms. These include throat lozenges, cough drops and decongestants that help with breathing, help relieve postnasal drips and runny noses. Decongestants can be taken orally as pills, applied as creams to the chest or back or using nasal sprays. Some of these treatments have side effects and should only be used for a limited time (check the information on the labels.
- Acetaminophen (paracetamol), ibuprofen and other analgesics may help control the pain, but should only be used for a brief period of time.
- Help your body deal with colds and flu infections with various vitamins, minerals, herbs and good nutrition. The major vitamins supplements are C and E, the minerals zinc and magnesium are also helpful.
- Honey has long been used as a natural sore-throat remedy. It has antibacterial properties and can help reduce the discomfort and swelling . Add several teaspoons of honey to a cup of hot water, herbal tea or hot lemonade, or add the juice of half a lemon with hot water. Other citrus varieties such as oranges and limes can also be used.
- Horehound, marshmallow root, Slippery elm and other herbal remedies are used by many people to reduce the swelling in an inflamed throat.
- Echinacea is often used to relieve cold and flu symptoms.
- Ginger and garlic are also used to fight off infection. Garlic has renowned antiseptic and antibacterial properties (see articles).
- Zinc lozenges have been shown to reduce the duration of sore throats in many people.
© 2012 Dr. John Anderson