How To Soothe a Sore Throat Fast

13 easy remedies to ease throat soreness and scratchiness and speed your way to recovery

A sore throat can be the first sign of a cold, a side effect of strained vocal cords, or an indication of something more serious (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.

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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, according to MedlinePlus. Taking them with food can help to prevent this.

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Saltwater Gargle

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a saltwater gargle for a sore throat. Gargling a few times a day with warm salt water can reduce swelling in the throat and loosen mucus, helping to flush out irritants or bacteria.

Doctors generally recommend dissolving 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.

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Cough Syrup, Lozenges, or Sprays

Sometimes that annoying scratch in your throat or incessant cough just won't budge and you need additional remedies—preferably those that come from the medicine aisle in the drugstore.

Enter: Cough syrup, throat lozenges, and throat sprays. Throat lozenges and cough drops commonly contain menthol, which MedlinePlus notes 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.

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Drink Fluids

The CDC recommends drinking plenty of beverages and staying as hydrated as possible to 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.

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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, according to research published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in 2016.

For an extra boost, add a teaspoon of honey and lemon juice. It's a classic sore throat remedy for a reason—it works! Honey coats the throat and contains antimicrobial properties to fight germs. Lemon contains vitamin C, which can boost immune function, as was reported in a 2017 Nutrients article.

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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.

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Sap from the marshmallow plant has been used for hundreds of years—usually in tea form—to treat coughs, colds, and sore throats. It may seem far-fetched, but a 2019 study published in the phytotherapy journal Phytotherapie gives some credence to this ancient remedy. Marshmallow root tea and supplements can soothe irritated throats and minor respiratory complaints.

And while real marshmallow bears little relation to the puffy campfire treats that took its name, both may have sore throat-fighting properties. According to anecdotal reports, modern-day marshmallows can help ease sore throat pain, possibly because the gelatin coats and soothes.

"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."

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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."

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Every once and a while—about 5% to 15% of the time in adults, according to the CDC—a sore throat will be caused by a bacterial infection such as Streptococcus pyogenes. 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.

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Nasal Rinsing

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, according to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Nasal rinsing works by loosening thick mucus and clearing your nasal passages of dust, pollen, and other irritants.

Make sure you use distilled or sterile water—not tap water—for sinus irrigation. The FDA warns 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.

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Break Out the 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. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAI), both mold an dust mites thrive in a damp environment. The ideal indoor humidity level: Between 40% and 50%, AAAI reports.

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A Spoonful of Honey

When it comes to easing a sore throat, a spoonful of honey may be all the medicine you need. A 2012 study from the journal Pediatrics evaluated the effect of honey on nighttime cough in 300 children with upper respiratory tract infections. The parents of the children reported that the best symptom relief came from the honey products.

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, according to research published in the American Journal of Therapeutics in 2014.

However, the CDC warns against giving honey to children under the age of 1 year as it has been linked to cases of infant botulism.

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Yep, mom was onto something: The CDC recommends sucking on ice chips or a popsicle to help soothe a sore throat. While the store-bought one aren't necessarily the healthiest option, they might help soothe that raging throat.

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