Health Conditions A-Z Infectious Diseases Common Cold How To Soothe a Sore Throat Fast 13 easy remedies to ease throat soreness and scratchiness and speed your way to recovery By Amanda MacMillan Amanda MacMillan Amanda MacMillan is a health and science writer and editor. Her work appears across brands like Health, Prevention, SELF, O Magazine, Travel + Leisure, Time Out New York, and National Geographic's The Green Guide. health's editorial guidelines Updated on February 27, 2023 Share Tweet Pin Email A sore throat can be the first sign of a cold, a side effect of smoking, or an indication of an infection (like strep throat). Regardless of the cause, your immediate concern when soreness strikes is how to get relief, fast. You may be tempted to run to your healthcare provider—and a medical professional can help if you have strep throat caused by a bacterial infection by prescribing antibiotics—but some of the best treatments are home remedies and over-the-counter meds, said Jeffrey Linder, MD, chief of general internal medicine and a professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Here are 13 remedies to try the next time you're feeling scratchy, hoarse, or just plain sick. Why Does My Throat Hurt? 10 Sore Throat Causes Medications You Can Take Sometimes that annoying scratch in your throat or incessant cough may need medication. The Best (and Worst) Cold and Flu Medicines, According to Experts Antibiotics Every once in a while—about 10% of the time in adults—a sore throat will be caused by strep throat, a bacterial infection that infects the throat and tonsils. If, and only if, you test positive for strep throat or another bacterial infection, your healthcare provider should prescribe an antibiotic. (Taking antibiotics for a sore throat caused by a virus will not be effective.) Always take the full course of medicine, even if you feel better after a few days. What Are the Side Effects of Taking Antibiotics? Anti-Inflammatories One of the most effective treatments for a sore throat is probably already in your medicine cabinet: an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as Advil or Aleve. "These medicines are combination pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, so they'll make you feel better and they'll also reduce some of the swelling associated with a sore throat," Dr. Linder said. "If you have a fever that's also contributing to your symptoms, they can help reduce that as well." NSAIDs can cause an upset stomach in some people. Taking them with food can help to prevent this. Important Facts About Non-Narcotic Pain Drugs Cough Syrup, Lozenges, or Sprays Throat lozenges and cough drops commonly contain menthol, which can soothe a scratchy throat, or an anesthetic, like benzocaine, which can help numb throat pain. Throat sprays, like Chloraseptic, also contain anesthetics that can help to soothe a sore throat. If you are experiencing a cough along with a sore throat, cough syrup, such as Robitussin, can help to reduce the cough. Signs and Symptoms of Strep Throat Things You Can Eat or Drink The pain you feel in your throat may make it difficult to eat or drink but, there are a few different things you can eat and drink that can help to soothe the pain. 12 Foods and Drinks That Boost Your Immune System Fluids Drinking plenty of liquids and staying as hydrated as possible will keep your throat coated and comfortable. Warm beverages may also help a bit more than cool ones to soothe the throat, prevent dehydration, and even ease congestion. Tea Tired of drinking water? A warm cup of herbal tea can offer immediate, soothing relief for a sore throat. What's more, non-herbal teas—whether they're made with black, white, or green leaves—contain antioxidants that are thought to strengthen immunity and ward off infection. For an extra boost, add a teaspoon of lemon juice, which contains vitamin C and can boost immune function. You can also add some honey for additional benefits. A Spoonful of Honey You can add honey to your tea, or you can just eat a spoonful of it too. When it comes to easing a sore throat, a spoonful of honey may be all the medicine you need. Not only does the thick, syrupy texture of honey coat and soothe your throat, but it's also possesses antimicrobial properties that may help you heal faster. However, children under the age of one should not be given honey since it has been linked to cases of infant botulism. Chicken Soup An age-old home remedy for colds, chicken soup can help soothe a sore throat, as well. "The sodium in the broth may actually have anti-inflammatory properties, and it can feel good going down," Dr. Linder said. Soup has an added benefit when you're sick: Eating can be painful and difficult with a swollen or very sore throat, so sipping some liquid nourishment will ensure that you're getting the nutrients you need to fight off your infection. Marshmallows Sap from the marshmallow plant has been used for hundreds of years—usually in tea form—to treat cough, colds, sore throats. It may seem far-fetched, but research gives some credence to this ancient remedy. Marshmallow root tea and supplements can soothe irritated throats and minor respiratory complaints. "It's not the wackiest thing in the world," Dr. Linder said. "If your throat is really swollen and it really hurts to swallow anything, I can see how something slippery and sweet like marshmallows might provide some relief." Popsicles Yep, mom was onto something: sucking on ice chips or a popsicle can help soothe a sore throat. You can buy popsicles at the store, or even make your own. They might help soothe that raging throat. Saltwater Gurgle Gargling warm salt water a few times a day can reduce swelling in the throat and loosen mucus, helping to flush out irritants or bacteria. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in one cup of water. (If the salty taste is too unpleasant for you, try adding a small amount of honey to sweeten the mixture slightly.) Then, tip your head back, gargle for about 30 seconds, then spit the water out afterward. Things You Can Do If your sore throat is irritating you, take some action. There are a few things you can do to relieve the irritation. Rest It may not be the quickest solution, but getting some rest is probably the best thing you can do to battle the infection that caused your sore throat in the first place, Dr. Linder said. "The vast majority of sore throats are caused by cold viruses, and we know that there's very little we can do to cure a cold once we've got it," Dr. Linder said. "Making sure your body is well rested will at least help it fight off the virus so you can get better sooner." Rinse Out Your Sinuses Post-nasal drip is a common throat irritant. Rinsing your sinuses with salt water using a nasal spray bottle, neti pot, or other irrigation device can provide relief. Nasal rinsing works by loosening thick mucus and clearing your nasal passages of: DustPollenOther debris Make sure you use distilled or sterile water—not tap water—for sinus irrigation. Tap water may have low levels of microorganisms. Be sure to follow the instructions for the product you are using to reduce your risk of an infection. Use a Humidifier If your throat is aching, sitting in a room with dry air is bound to make it way worse. In order to avoid this unpleasant environment, try a humidifier. This handy machine fills the air with moisture, making it much easier and more pleasant to breathe, which should calm your symptoms as a result. But, too much indoor humidity can also be a problem, especially for people with certain allergies. Both mold and dust mites thrive in a damp environment. The ideal indoor humidity level: between 40% and 50%. How To Relieve Chest Congestion A Quick Review When it comes to soothing a sore throat, you have options. You can take medications like cough drops and cough syrup; you can eat chicken soup and drink fluids; and you can get plenty of rest and rinse out your sinuses. If your sore throat doesn't get better with treatment, contact a healthcare provider. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sore throat. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Group A streptococcal (GAS) disease. MedlinePlus. Over-the-counter medicines. MedlinePlus. Ibuprofen. Peluso I, Serafini M. Antioxidants from black and green tea: from dietary modulation of oxidative stress to pharmacological mechanisms: Antioxidant and pharmacological properties of tea. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2017;174(11):1195-1208. doi:10.1111/bph.13649 Carr A, Maggini S. Vitamin C and immune function. Nutrients. 2017;9(11):1211. doi:10.3390/nu9111211 Israili ZH. Antimicrobial properties of honey. American Journal of Therapeutics. 2014;21(4):304. doi:10.1097/MJT.0b013e318293b09b Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Botulism. Möller J, Kelber O, Nieber K. Marshmallow root: A medicinal plant with a great tradition. Phytotherapie. 2019:s-0039-1697290. doi:10.1055/s-0039-1697290 US Food and Drug Administration. Is rinsing your sinuses with neti pots safe? Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Humidifiers and indoor allergies.