A sore throat is most commonly caused when you catch a viral infection like a cold or flu. You might experience a runny nose and nasal congestion. A sore throat often causes symptoms like sneezing and cough. In some cases, you may even run a mild fever. Flu tends to cause more severe symptoms like high fever, fatigue, and even muscle aches. In most cases though, you do not need to see the doctor. Over-the-counter drugs are usually effective in relieving a sore throat. You can also perfectly rely on home remedies to a great extent to soothe the pain caused by a sore throat. This is truer in the case of a sore throat caused by a virus. Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections Although home remedies seem to offer more relief. A combination of sore throat remedies and enough rest is usually sufficient for healing the condition.
Causes of a Sore Throat
Various factors can cause a sore throat. One of this is called the strep throat caused by bacteria. This sore throat condition is identified by the irritated throat, white patches on the tonsil, fever and swollen lymph nodes in the neck. Strep throat is usually dry, without any a cough or a runny nose. While anyone can get strep throat, kids within the age group of 5 to 15 are an increased risk. In adults, only 10% of cases of a sore throat are caused by the strep bacteria. The doctor can diagnose this condition by performing a rapid swab test.
Interestingly enough, sore throat is not always caused by infection by bacteria or virus. What most of us don’t know is that often heartburn or acid reflux can cause a sore throat. When acid from the stomach shoots back towards the mouth through the esophagus, the throat can become irritated and swollen. This can often give the feeling that there is a lump in the throat. You may experience pain while swallowing food and have a dry cough. However, you will not have a fever. If you have these symptoms, it is most likely a sore throat caused by acid reflux.
More often than not, allergies are a leading cause of a sore throat. Allergies to pollen, pet dander, dust, and mold can cause swelling of the throat. Postnasal drip can further aggravate the problem by causing irritation in the throat. Sometimes, chronic nasal congestion and even, dryness in the environment become a cause for a painful sore throat. This usually happens in houses with heating, when the dry indoor air can cause the throat to feel scratchy.
These apart, outdoor air pollution is another important reason why so many people complain of ongoing sore throat issues. Smoke from chemicals in the laboratories or becoming a passive smoker can lead to a chronic sore throat. The throat is also swollen and irritated by excessive smoking, chewing tobacco, drinking alcohol and bingeing on spicy foods. You will also realize that our throats feel quite rough and scratchy after yelling whether it is after a fight, debating, lecturing or cheering on a sporting event. All these activities cause a lot of strain in the muscles, causing the mucus line to swell and become painful.
Another concerning cause for a sore throat is HIV infection. Sometimes this severe infection causes symptoms of flu and sore throat in its very early stages. In some cases, an HIV patient may experience recurring sore throat issues caused by a secondary infection which may be viral or fungal in nature like oral thrush and cytomegalovirus (CMV) respectively. Sometimes, soreness of throat can indicate cancerous tumors of the larynx, tongue or throat. Usually, in such a case the patient experiences symptoms of lumpiness in the neck, bloody phlegm or saliva, hoarseness of voice, difficulty in swallowing and noisy breathing.
Symptoms of a Sore Throat
Depending on the cause of a sore throat, symptoms vary. However, some signs and symptoms are seen in the common occurrences of a sore throat. For example, many people would complain of a painful swelling in their throat. Having a scratchy sensation is also quite common. People might feel difficulty in swallowing when eating or talking. The glands are swollen and sore. In some cases, the tonsils bear white patches. The voice is muffled or hoarse. Coughing, sneezing, and runny nose is all symptoms of cold and flu and occurs with a sore throat. In severe forms, sore throat is accompanied by mild to high fever, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, headache, earache and body aches.
A Sore Throat Remedies to Try at Home
A sore throat is a common health issue that can most often be treated right at home with some home remedies. Following are amongst the most sought after sore throat remedies to help soothe the pain and lessen the inflammation and infection –
Licorice Root Tea
Beat the problems of a sore throat by drinking licorice root tea. Licorice root is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties, both of which offer great immunity against a sore throat and helps to heal the condition. The wonder compounds contained in this root reduce the swelling in the throat lining and lessens irritation. It also soothes the mucous membranes. You can make your pre-mix of licorice root tea by mixing and storing away a cup of chopped dry licorice root, two tablespoons of cloves and half each of cup of cinnamon chips and dried chamomile flowers. Now, for making the tea, boil 21/2 cups of water and into it add three tablespoons of your tea mix. Let this simmer for some 10 minutes. Strain this liquid and enjoy it warm.
Salt Water Gargle
Gargling with salt water is probably the easiest home remedies for a sore throat. When the mucous membranes lining your throat have become inflamed and swollen, it hurts. When you gargle with this therapeutic salt water, the swelling in your throat gradually shrinks back to normal. This is because the salt acts by sucking out the water from the swollen cells. This automatically eases any pain. Plus, gargling with water flushes away the collecting mucous from your throat and nose. To follow this quick remedy, warm a cup of water and stir in a teaspoon of salt. Gargle with this water and repeat the process at regular intervals several times a day.
Chamomile tea has several health benefits, and its use in healing painful sore throat is quite well-known. Chamomile is a natural pain killer, and it contains compounds that kill infection-causing bacteria. On the other hand, the anti-spasmodic properties of chamomile help your stressed throat muscles relax. Boil a cup of water and in it steep a bag of chamomile tea for some 10 minutes. For added benefits, you can mix in some honey and fresh lemon juice. You can drink this tea 2 to 3 times a day, and once before bedtime for relaxing sleep.
Ginger is a wonder remedy for a sore throat caused by cold. This root is a natural analgesic, or in layman terms a potent pain killer which will help ameliorate the pain in your swollen throat. Moreover, gingerroot is also enriched with antibacterial and antifungal properties. This kills the infection that inflames and irritates your throat. According to Ayurveda, ginger is ‘sattvic’ which means it is an ingredient that helps bring about balance in the body by strengthening immunity and killing germs. Moreover, the strong aroma of the root helps open up the sinuses and thins the mucus clogging the nasal passage and throat. To reap its benefits, drink some warm ginger tea. To make it, slice or grate a 2 inches long, peeled ginger. Boil 2 to 3 cups of water and throw in your ginger into the pot. Let it simmer in the water covered, for a good 5 to 10 minutes. Strain the tea; mix it with a tablespoon of honey and fresh lemon juice for added flavor and benefits and drink it piping hot. You can drink the tea 2 to 3 times a day.
If you are suffering a sore throat caused by cold, drinking hot toddy will help you relieve the symptoms. The vitamin C enriched lemon and the antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties of honey soothe your swollen and irritated throat. On the other hand, the alcohol in the bourbon or brandy helps you get a peaceful sleep. Boil some 4 ounces of water and pour it into a mug. Add to it a tablespoon of honey, a teaspoon of lemon juice and two tablespoons of either bourbon or brandy. Stir the mixture very well and drink it warm for soothing relief from a sore throat. This drink is best taken before retiring for the night.
Cayenne pepper helps heal your sore throat through its active ingredient called capsaicin. Capsaicin works much the same way as aspirin does for relieving pain. Make your cayenne tea by mixing half a teaspoon of the pepper in a cup of hot water and some honey. Alternately, you can mix a drop of cayenne oil with a tablespoon of honey and swallow it. Caution: this remedy is not meant for children.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is loaded with antibacterial properties which make it a great remedy for fighting the infection that causes a sore throat. The high acidic contents of the vinegar bring down the pH of the tissue, and this works against the growth of bacteria. Furthermore, raw apple cider vinegar is enriched with prebiotic inulin which boosts the white blood cell and T cell production and increases your immunity. A sore throat often makes breathing and swallowing difficult. Apple cider vinegar helps you overcome that by thinning the phlegm or mucous that has collected in the throat. Make your sore throat healing potion by mixing a tablespoon of the vinegar in a cup of very warm water. Add to it a tablespoon of honey and drink it. Alternately, you can also mix in 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and combine it with a half a cup of warm water to gargle. You can do this once a day until the symptoms fade.
Garlic is a very useful ingredient where soothing the sore throat is considered. Garlic is enriched with the compound called allicin which works wonder to your infectious throat by killing the strep causing bacteria and fighting the germs that cause irritation and pain. To use this home remedy slice in half, one fresh clove of garlic. Place a piece on either cheek and suck on it. The garlic acts as a natural cough drop. Crush the garlic occasionally while sucking. This will release the allicin. You can do this once every day until the symptoms go away.
While the name of marshmallow may make you excited, it’s not the marshmallow sweet but the root of marshmallow herb that can rid you from a sore throat. The root of marshmallow has been used to treat sore throats since the olden times in Europe and North America. Marshmallow root is loaded with mucilage which is a key ingredient that helps in coating the mucus membranes lining the throat and helps them soothe. Take a tablespoon of the dried root of marshmallow in a cup and pour boiling water over it. Let the root steep in hot water covered, for around 45 to 60 minutes. Strain this liquid and drink it. One word of caution here! If you also have diabetes, consult the doctor before using this remedy as marshmallow root is known to lower blood sugar levels.
When to Call the Doctor
You can well rely on counter-top medications or simple homemade remedies for healing your sore throat. However, if the condition persists in the same way for three days or gets worse, it is advisable to seek medical help. If you had a fever for over 100.4 F for a couple of days or more, it is important to call the doctor. Immediate medical attention should also be sought if you are already a suffering from HIV, diabetes, asthma or any heart disease. Pregnant women should always consult the doctor when suffering from a sore throat.