How to Get Rid of a Sore Throat: At Home Remedies & Medication

By Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
August 10, 2022

There are several natural home remedies that can help you ease the pain of a sore throat. In this article, I’ll talk about what a sore throat is, and some common causes.

I’ll outline some home remedies and medications that can help ease symptoms, as well as strategies that can help you avoid and/or minimize future sore throats. Finally, I’ll help you know when you should talk to a doctor about your symptoms.

Natural and At-Home Remedies for a Sore Throat

Most sore throats, except for bacterial infections like strep throat, do not need antibiotics. In many cases, home remedies can help ease the pain and irritation. 

If you’re experiencing a painful sore throat, you may be able to find some relief in your pantry. Try one of these natural remedies: 

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Salt Water

While salt water is not an immediate pain-reliever, it helps kill bacteria, loosen mucus, and reduce inflammation. Add half a teaspoon of salt to eight ounces of warm water and gargle the water in the back of your throat. A saltwater gargle can be done at least twice a day until your sore throat is gone. 

Honey 

Honey contains natural antibacterial properties that enable it to soothe wounds and suppress coughs. Mix two tablespoons of honey with warm water or tea, stir well, and drink.

Manuka honey has the best antibacterial qualities, however, it can be quite expensive.

Tea

Herbal teas have been used to soothe sore throats for centuries. The warmth of the liquid and medicinal properties of certain herbs can be a perfect combo. Almost any kind of tea may help. Some of the most popular and effective teas include chamomile, turmeric, green, peppermint, and raspberry.

Hot Sauce or Cayenne Pepper

Believe it or not, hot sauce or cayenne pepper can help your sore throat. Both are made from peppers high in capsaicin, which can be used to combat inflammation and provide relief. Try adding a few drops of hot sauce or a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper to a warm glass of water and gargle. 

Baking Soda

While gargling salt water is more common, you can also try gargling baking soda to treat a sore throat. Doing this is believed to kill bacteria and prevent the growth of yeast and fungi. Mix a teaspoon of baking soda into a glass of warm water and gargle. 

Humidifier

While it can’t be found in your pantry, a humidifier is another great way to relieve your sore throat. Dry air is no good for a sore throat, and can even be the cause. A humidifier will keep the air moist and your sinuses open—especially while you sleep. 

Licorice Root

Licorice root has a long history of medicinal use dating back to ancient times in China, India, and Assyria. Studies show that licorice may be helpful for sore throats along with digestive issues and eczema. 

Licorice root is generally considered safe when taken in moderation. Large doses or when taken over a long period of time may cause an increase in blood pressure or alter your electrolytes. 

Pregnant and breast feeding people should avoid licorice as there have been negative effects on babies. 

Peppermint

The herb peppermint contains menthol, a main ingredient in many cough drops and throat lozenges for treating sore throats. 

Health benefits from peppermint are found in the leaves and oils. People use peppermint tea or the essential oil for aromatherapy for relief from their sore throat. 

Peppermint oil should not be used on small children however as it can alter their breathing. 

Broth or Soup

There is nothing better than a warm cup of soup or broth when you aren’t feeling well. While your soup may not cure your sore throat it does have some health benefits

The steam from the broth may help open your sinus for some short term relief. 

Broth and soup are also a good source of nutrition during times when you may not have a great appetite. 

The extra liquid also helps hydrate you and thin your mucus. The sodium in the broth helps your body to maintain the fluids you are taking in and can replenish electrolytes lost via sweat, diarrhea or vomiting that can accompany an infection.

So while it may not be a quick cure, go ahead and enjoy that soup someone who loves you brought over. 

Medications for a Sore Throat

If natural remedies don’t interest you—or if they just aren’t working—there are several over-the-counter (OTC) medications you can take for a sore throat. 

Pain relievers

There are several over-the-counter (OTC) medications available to relieve sore throat pain. 

  • Acetaminophen, the main ingredient in Tylenol and other pain and fever relieving medications may take away sore throat pain. 
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen can also bring relief from throat pain by decreasing inflammation. These should be taken with food to prevent stomach upset.

Throat numbing medications

Certain medications can numb your sore throat. These medications are also known anesthetics and are available in throat spray or lozenge form. 

Examples include:

  • Chloraseptic throat sprays
  • Vicks VapoCOOL throat spray
  • Throat lozenges like Halls or Cepacol

These medications contain several ingredients such as menthol, phenol, and benzocaine to numb your throat. It’s good to note however that these medications can numb other parts of your mouth as well such as your cheeks or tongue. 

Antihistamines

Antihistamines help block histamines released during an allergic reaction. Histamines cause sore throats, nasal congestion, and runny eyes. Blocking their effect can help your sore throat feel better. 

Examples of antihistamines include:

  • Diphenhydramine
  • Loratadine
  • Cetirizine
  • Fexofenadine
  • Levocetirizine

Decongestants

If your sore throat is due to sinus congestion or postnasal drip, a decongestant may bring you relief. 

However, do not use decongestants for longer than three days.

Doing so can cause the opposite effect and increase mucus production.

Common decongestants available OTC include:

  • Oxymetazoline
  • Phenylephrine
  • Pseudoephedrine

What To Avoid With a Sore Throat

Now that you know what will help your sore throat, here are a few things you should avoid:

  • Foods that are difficult to swallow 
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Essential oils
  • Dry air
  • Smoking
  • Acidic foods

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When To See a Medical Provider

While sore throats caused by a virus can go away on their own, sore throats caused by bacteria should be treated with antibiotics.

You should see a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms: 

  • Throat pain that’s severe, prolonged, or not improving
  • Trouble swallowing, breathing, or opening your mouth
  • Coughing up blood or have blood in your saliva
  • Feel enlarged lymph nodes, or lumps, in your neck
  • Have white patches on the back of your throat or a rash, possible signs of strep throat
  • Have a high fever
  • Lose your voice for more than a week or two

Treat Your Sore Throat Online

Using online urgent care through K Health, you can treat your sore throat online, right from home. Check your symptoms, talk to a doctor, and get treatment all on your schedule.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are sore throats contagious?
Yes, pharyngitis (both viral and bacterial) is contagious and can be transmitted from one person to another. Sore throats caused by allergies, trauma, toxins, and other environmental irritants are not contagious. If you have a sore throat, it’s best to use caution and avoid close contact with others until it gets better.
What is the fastest way to get over a sore throat?
While there is no way to cure a sore throat on the spot, visiting a doctor to determine the cause and proper treatment is the best way to start getting better. In addition, trying at-home remedies can help soothe the pain and hopefully expedite the recovery process.
Is a sore throat dangerous if left untreated?
If left untreated, strep throat can sometimes develop into a more serious illness, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or rheumatic fever—a disease that impacts the heart.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 15 years experience. He received his Undergraduate and Graduate degrees from William Paterson University and his doctoral degree from Drexel University. He has spent his career working in the Emergency Room and Primary Care. The last 6 years of his career have been dedicated to the field of digital medicine. He has created departments geared towards this specialized practice as well as written blogs and a book about the topic.