Sore Throat Remedies , Causes And Symptoms

Sore throat remedies, causes and symptoms. Many of us fall prey to sore throat almost every year. Most of the times, it occurs along side a cold. A sore throat means lots of troubles and a heightened sense of being unwell. There is pain in the throat, even when swallowing and talking makes it worse. This brings about days when you communicate by writing more than speaking. And on the phone, everyone keeps saying ” What happened to your voice ? “.And you just reply, nothing , just a sore throat.

Sore Throat Remedies - Girl Suffering From Sore Throat

( Photo credit : raggle )

But what exactly is a Sore Throat ?

Have you ever pondered what causes all that irritation and pain. What exactly is the driving force behind all that inflammation ?

Sore throat, in most cases, is caused by pharyngitis [1] . Pharynx refers to the throat and “itis” as we all know , is the dreaded inflammation. So, pharyngitis menas your throat has inflamed. But why ? It is a response of the immune system to pathogens, or environmental stressors, like pollutants.

Pharyngitis itself is caused by a viral infection in almost 40 – 80 % of the cases. So, it is actually a harmful virus responsible for your sore throat. It might have entered the body through air or by any other means. These virus have an affinity for the upper respiratory tract, and their task is to overtake our healthy cells. Body’s immune system detects an infection and rushes to the spot. This initiates inflammation in the throat, which is a sign that your body is healing, which is a good thing on the inside, but very painful on the outside. This inflammation is what leads to all the pain.

A viral infection explains about 80 % of the cases, but what about the rest.


Causes of Sore Throat

There are many other causes of sore throat other than a viral pharyngitis. Some of them can indicate an otherwise unnoticed severe internal infection.

  • Viral Pharyngitis -different kinds of virus species, most common being adenovirus. It leads to very painful sore throat, but less redness on the throat.
  • Bacterial Pharyngitis – most often caused by the Streptococcus bacteria. It often leads to fever.
  • Quinsy – Also known as peritonisllar abscess. It leads to pus formation in the throat during a tonsillitis.
  • Fungal Infection – You guessed it right, the cause is Candida. If you have oral thrush, chances are high that it is a fungal infection.
  • Acid reflux – People who suffer from heartburn are at real risk of developing chronic sore throat. The contents of gastric acid are highly acidic. It scars the tissues of the thraot and may even lead to irreparable damage to the tissue. JHeartburn is not something to be ignored.
  • Allergies – An allergy can very well cause a sore throat. It leads to a host of problems, like runny nose, watery eyes, pain while swallowing and general discomfort in the throat.  Even food allergies can cause sore throat.
  • Environmental Pollutants – All that pollution diffusing in our air can really take a toll on our lungs and body. Eventually, body cannot handle so many toxins. The results are conditions like sore throat, cough and inflammation.
  • Smoking – This includes first and second hand smoke.
  • Very Cold Air – In winter months, the air is very dry and cold. Our throat is not accustomed to such a low amount of mositure and such low temperatures. This can easily irritate the throat lining in sensitive people, leading to sore throat.
  • Talking very loud or talking for long periods at a time – Teachers often succumb to sore throat for this reason.
  • Singing can also give you sore throat.

In rare cases, sore throat may also result from a deeper systemic infection. If your sore throat doesn’t resolve on its own in 7 days, this may be the cause. It is time to visit a doctor.


Your Job Can Give You Sore Throat [2]

We are talking about occupational hazards here. Although there is so much awareness on the hazards created by industrial activities.  And many steps are regularly taken by industries to minimise such effects. But, you know chemicals can cause a damage even with their odors. These are some jobs that can lead to sore throat, and potentially even more risk for the respiratory tract on the whole.

  • People who live and work near Volcanoes – the high levels of sulphur dioxide is to blame.
  • Industries like paper mills, wood processing, brick manufacturing, dyes and paints and all kinds of factories with their exhaust fumes.
  • Firefighters too have to deal with sore throat. The burning and charring of material releases smoke and harmful chemicals which affects the throats of firefighters.
  • Sandblasting in construction activity is associated with sore throats, especially if the masks are not of good quality. Sand work creates fine particulate matter which can pass through poorly engineered masks.
  • Even cooking can give you a sore throat, even thogh the chances are rare.

Fire Fighting A Common Cause Of Sore Throat

( Photo credit : soldiersmediacenter )

Symptoms of a Sore Throat

The initial symptoms of sore throat is a scratchy feeling in the throat. This is a first sign of an incoming sore throat. There can be itching in the throat, tingling on the palate, sneezing and coughing. Within a fw hours, major symptoms [3]start to come up.

  • Pain in the throat – The pain is often sharp. In some people, the pain intensity can be quite high, even above 5 on the pain intensity scale. Pain increases in intensity when swallowing. It can be difficult to gulp water down.
  • Fever – It is generally less than 102 ° F.
  • Swollen lymph nodes and tonsils – If you look at your mouth in the mirror with aequate lighting, then you may be able to see some swelling and redness in the area where tonsils are located. If that is the case, you have also got tonsillitis. This is what leads to increased pain while eating.
  • Throat feels scratchy – It feels like you want to swallow something something down, but that doesn’t happen.

There can be other concurrent symptoms , like

  • Chills
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Low appetite – that’s bound to happen when you have pain while eating.
  • Feeling sick
  • Exudate coming from the throat, called catarrh
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Redness of throat, mainly because of inflammation and increased blood flow.

In children and newborn, these symptoms may be visible as difficulty in sleeping and baby not taking food even though it has been time since the last feed. Crying while feeding and high levels of irritability can be seen.


Sore Throat Remedies

Sore throat can be managed at home. It is generally not a matter of grave health concern. There are many home remedies for sore throat [5] which can cut down the recovery time from 7 days to as fast as 1 – 2 days. One can also target individual symptom of sore throat and get selective relief. That means, try something different for the inflammation, the fever and the swollen lymph nodes.

Let us discuss some of the potent remedies for sore throat.

1. Salt Water Gargle
Perform a salt water gargle in wamr water many times a day. This provides quite relief from sore throat. The pinch of salt also helps to cleanse out the exudate coming from the throat. This keeps the throat clean.
Salt also possesses some antibacterial property. It can clean the throat off any bacteria species, thus reducing the total bacterial load. This makes the job lot easier for the immune system.

Salt Water Gargle For Sore Throat

( Photo credit : pagedooley  )

2. Humidifier
Few people realize the importance of a humidifier in the home, and howit impacts respiratory health. A humidifier not only soothes a sore throat, it is also great for general breathing difficulty.
Get a humidifier and set the humidity at 30 – 50 %. This is the ideal humidity indoors. It would make your house feel better. Make sure that there is good ventilation inside the house. Stifling, stagnat air with high humidity too can cause problems.

Humidifier For Sore Throat

( Photo credit : breatheindigital )

3.  Honey
Honey has been used in many cultures to treat problems of the respiratory tract. It is a cough suppressant ( antitussive ), an expectorant and a decongestant. It is also anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Take honey for sore throat, especially if you have cough with it. A study [4] found out that honey is great for suppressing cough in kids.

Honey should not be given to children below 1 year of age.


4. Sore throat lozenges
These are made specifically for sore throat. But, not all sore throat lozenges perform as expected. One should look for these ingredients in a sore throat lozenges.

  • Honey
  • Ginger
  • Lemon
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Peppermint

All of these help with sore throat.

Sore Throat Lozenges

( Photo credit : niloy )

5. Vitamin C For Sore Throat
Vitamin C, in amounts higher than the daily recommended amount, can help in easing cold and sore throat. There are many studies [6] which have found that supplementing on Vitamin C can cure a cold faster, and also relieve its symptoms, one of which is sore throat.
It is better if you can take Vitamin C from natural sources, like citrus fruits, guavas, chilli, pineapples etc. These have the complete spectrum of Vitamin C and provide much more health benefits that Vitamin C in supplement form.


6.  Zinc Lozenges 
Zinc, taken in the form of lozenges can assist in sore throat brought on by common cold. It has been studied to help with common cold and its symptoms. Supplemental zinc can shorten duration of cold by 1 day.
Zinc lozenges are easily available. If you experience metallic taste in mouth after taking zinc, then discontinue this sore throat remedy.


7. Licorice Root Tea Gargle
Licorice is a popular herb which is commonly used in herbal formulations of Japan and China. This herb’s root has ability to soothe a sore  throat. Technically, licorice root is a demulcent. It coats the throat and prevents further infection or inflammation. A study [7] found out that gargling with licorice is effective at treating sore throat post operation. That shows how powerful licorice is.
One can obtaine licorice root tea at health stores. Prepare a mild herbal tea and use it for gargle.

“Drinking licorice tea has many health benefits, but it is also known to raise blood pressure in humans. So, continued use of licorice tea should be avoided. Gargling is fine as we are not ingesting its nutrients in large quantities. “

Licorice Root Tea Sore Throat

( Photo credit : banditsmom1 )

Preventing Sore Throat Events In Future
No one wants a sore throat. But, it is just so common. One can bolster his or her defense against infectious sore throat by following these remedies.

1. Use an Air Filter
Using an HEPA filter can do a world of good for your indoor air quality, especially if you are prone to respiratory problems. An HEPA filter is an ultra fine particulate filter which blocks all particles greater than 0.3 micrometer. This prevents the spread of airborne pathogens to some extent, and also makes the air cleaner.
This can lower the incidence of sore throat caused by particulate irritants, like fine dust, smoke particles etc.


2. Probiotics
Not all probiotics, but the ones containing lactobacillus GG have been noted to decrease the incidence of sore throat in kids by 34 %.  This is found in yogurt. So, essentially, taking yogurt everyday increases your body’s defense mechanism against upper respiratory tract infection.


How long does a sore throat last ? 
The answer to this question depends on the causative agent of sore throat, as explained in this diagram[2].


Sore Throat Duration


It is clear from this diagram that an infectious sore throat ( viral, bacterial ) has an end to it. This is typically 1 week. Sore throat caused by chronic cause stays there continuously. This could like from an occupational hazard at your job, or due to heartburn. Another kind of sore throat is the intermittent sore throat. This usually affects people who have weak immunity and often succumb to pathogens that cause sore throat. The last 2 cases should be seen by a doctor.



1. Pharyngitis Wikipedia
2. Environmental and non-infectious factors in the aetiology of pharyngitis (sore throat) . Bertold Renner, Christian A. Mueller,and Adrian Shephard.
3. Sore Throat-CDC
4. Pharyngitis - University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC)
5. Home Remedies For Sore Throat – Homeremedieslook
6. Vitamin C -  University of Michigan Health System (UMHS)
7. An Evaluation of the Efficacy of Licorice Gargle for Attenuating Postoperative Sore Throat: A Prospective, Randomized, Single-Blind Study.  Agarwal, Anil ; Gupta, Devendra ; Yadav, Ghanshyam ; Goyal, Puneet; Singh, Prabhat K. ; Singh, Uttam


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