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Self-Care for Sore Throats

Sore throats happen for many reasons, such as colds, allergies, and infections caused by viruses or bacteria. In any case, your throat becomes red and sore. Your goal for self-care is to reduce your discomfort while giving your throat a chance to heal.

Man with sore throat taking a throat lozenge.

Moisten and soothe your throat

Tips include the following:

  • Try a sip of water first thing after waking up.

  • Keep your throat moist by drinking 6 or more glasses of clear liquids every day.

  • Run a cool-air humidifier in your room overnight.

  • Avoid cigarette smoke. 

  • Suck on throat lozenges, cough drops, hard candy, ice chips, or frozen fruit-juice bars. Use the sugar-free versions if your diet or medical condition requires them.

Gargle to ease irritation

Gargling every hour or 2 can ease irritation. Try gargling with 1 of these solutions:

  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt in 1/2 cup of warm water

  • An over-the-counter anesthetic gargle

Use medicine for more relief

Over-the-counter medicine can reduce sore throat symptoms. Ask your pharmacist if you have questions about which medicine to use:

  • Ease pain with anesthetic sprays. Aspirin or an aspirin substitute also helps. Remember, never give aspirin to anyone 18 or younger, or if you are already taking blood thinners. 

  • For sore throats caused by allergies, try antihistamines to block the allergic reaction.

  • Remember: unless a sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics won’t help you.

Prevent future sore throats

Prevention tips include the following:

  • Stop smoking or reduce contact with secondhand smoke. Smoke irritates the tender throat lining.

  • Limit contact with pets and with allergy-causing substances, such as pollen and mold.

  • When you’re around someone with a sore throat or cold, wash your hands often to keep viruses or bacteria from spreading.

  • Don’t strain your vocal cords.

Call your healthcare provider

Contact your healthcare provider if you have:

  • A temperature over 101°F (38.3°C)

  • White spots on the throat

  • Great difficulty swallowing

  • Trouble breathing

  • A skin rash

  • Recent exposure to someone else with strep bacteria

  • Severe hoarseness and swollen glands in the neck or jaw


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