Painful, dry, scratchy- the bothersome symptoms of a sore throat are hard to ignore. From strep throat to allergies, sore throats account for more than 13 million trips to healthcare providers each year.
Most sore throat cases are caused by viral or bacterial infections, but environmental factors can play a role as well. The good news is that many sore throats resolve on their own, and at-home treatment options can help speed up the recovery process.
Let’s dive into what to do when you get a sore throat.
Symptoms and Causes of a Sore Throat
Sore throats are divided into different types based on the location of your symptoms. Here are the different types of sore throats:
- Pharyngitis affects the area directly behind the mouth.
- Tonsillitis occurs when the soft tissue in the back of the mouth, called tonsils, becomes inflamed and irritated.
- Laryngitis is a swelling and irritation of the voice box.
While symptoms of a sore throat depend on the cause, your throat may feel:
Symptoms may get worse when you eat, talk, or swallow. Your throat may also appear red or inflamed. White patches that form in the back of the throat are usually a sign that you have an infection called strep throat.
In addition to pain and discomfort, your sore throat may also be accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Runny nose
- Swollen neck glands
- Trouble swallowing
- Appetite loss
What Causes a Sore Throat?
- The common cold
- Strep throat
- Dry air
- Smoke, chemicals, or other environmental or household irritants
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Mouth breathing at night
How Can You Treat a Sore Throat?
While most patients can find relief from sore throat symptoms at home, diagnosis and treatment by a medical professional might be necessary.
Your doctor will do a physical exam of your mouth, neck, and throat. They may also swab the back of your throat for a strep throat test. A blood test is necessary if your healthcare provider suspects you have mononucleosis commonly referred to as mono.
The most common treatment for a sore throat is rest. It’s essential to give your immune system the tools it needs to fight your illness.
Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics for bacterial infections, but viral infections need to run their course. If allergies cause a persistent sore throat, you will be referred to a specialist to discuss allergy triggers and explore medication options. Persistent tonsillitis will generally require surgery to remove the tonsils.
Beyond medical treatment, there are several ways you can ease the symptoms of your sore throat.
At-Home Remedies to Soothe Your Sore Throat
While it can take weeks, even months, for your sore throat to heal completely, there are at-home remedies you can use to get relief.
Here are some ways to reduce sore throat symptoms and promote healing:
- Gargle with salt and warm water. Gargling with warm salt water can help soothe a scratchy throat. The salt draws mucus out of your throat, and the warm water helps relieve pain and discomfort. Medical professionals at the Mayo Clinic recommend combining 1/4 to 1/2 of a teaspoon of salt with 4-8 ounces of warm water. Stir the water until all the salt dissolves then gargle for several seconds before you spit the water out. You can repeat this treatment several times a day.
- Keep your throat moist. Dryness can cause and worsen sore throats. That’s why it’s critical to stay hydrated. Warm drinks can soothe your throat, but avoid caffeinated beverages that can cause dehydration. Add a drop of honey to tea or hot water to promote healing. Popsicles and crushed ice can numb the pain.
Hard candy can get your saliva flowing and keep your throat lubricated. Over-the-counter throat lozenges can provide relief from pain and burning. Many lozenges contain menthol, which can temporarily numb your throat pain.
If possible, you should also use a humidifier in your bedroom while you are sleeping. Breathing in the moist air from the humidifier can help ease inflammation, keep your throat moist, and eliminate sore throats caused by dry air.
- Take advantage of over-the-counter pain relievers. While prescription medication can be used to treat bacterial infections, antibiotics don’t treat viral infections. Since one of the most common causes of sore throats is a viral infection, over-the-counter pain relief medication is useful in temporarily relieving bothersome symptoms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can reduce inflammation and swelling in your throat. Acetaminophen products such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen products such as Motrin can provide relief from pain and discomfort.
You can also try an over-the-counter throat spray to temporarily numb your throat for immediate relief.
- Deal with congestion. Since many sore throats are caused by the common cold or influenza, nasal congestion plays a significant role in soreness. If you have a runny nose or are congested, you take steps to deal with the mucus buildup.
Talk to your doctor about taking a decongestant, expectorant, or antihistamine. These over-the-counter medications can prevent mucus from your sinuses from draining into your throat. If you can’t take these medications, use a steam shower for relief.
Breathing in the steam produced by warm water can help drain your sinuses, reduce swelling, and ease throat pain. You can take a warm shower, sit in the bathroom with the door closed and a hot shower running, or create steam in a sink. Take deep breaths for several minutes and repeat this treatment as much as you need it.
- Rest. The best way to speed up the healing process is to listen to your body. Get the rest you need to fight your infection and set off on a path to a fast recovery. Try to rest your voice until your throat feels better. Stick to a diet of soothing liquids until your symptoms subside. The more you rest, the faster your immune system will work to fight whatever is causing your sore throat.
Visit University Urgent Care for Sore Throat Treatment
You don’t need to continue to suffer from a sore throat. If your symptoms persist despite at-home treatment, it’s time to see a doctor. University Urgent Care is here to evaluate, diagnose, and treat your symptoms. Our staff of board-certified healthcare professionals provides immediate non-emergency medical care to anyone on or near TCU campus in Fort Worth, TX.
In addition to persistent symptoms, stop in or make an appointment with our team if you have:
- Severe pain when swallowing
- High fever
We are open 7 days a week from 10 AM-8 PM with short wait times. Our team of compassionate medical providers offers quality, thorough care for individuals, families, students, and anyone in need of urgent care services in Fort Worth. Give us a call at (817) 439-9539, stop by our facility, or book an appointment online today. We’ll treat your sore throat so you can be on your feet fast.