Okay, nobody wants to get sick especially down with a sore throat. The feeling is not at all good, right? By definition, sore throat is a condition marked by pain in the throat, typically caused by inflammation due to a cold or other viruses. 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 doctor, but some of the best treatments are home remedies and over-the-counter medicines.
So, how to cure a mild sore throat?
One of the most effective treatments for sore throat is probably already in your medicine cabinet: an over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as Advil or Aleve. Anti-inflammatory refers to the property of a substance or treatment that reduces inflammation or swelling. Anti-inflammatory drugs make up about half of analgesics, remedying pain by reducing inflammation as opposed to opioids, which affect the central nervous system.
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. 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.
If you don't have a cough (yet), over-the-counter cough syrups can help ease soreness. Like drops and sprays, they coat the throat and provide temporary pain relief. If you're headed to work, be sure to choose a non-drowsy formula. But if you're having trouble sleeping due to a sore throat, a nighttime formula like NyQuil (which contains a pain reliever and an antihistamine) or Robitussin AC (guaifenesin and codeine) can relieve pain and help you get some shuteye.
Lozenges and sprays
Sucking on cough drops stimulates saliva production, which can help keep your throat moist. But many varieties are no more effective than hard candies. For an added benefit, choose brands with a cooling or numbing ingredient, like menthol or eucalyptus. Over-the-counter sprays like Chloraseptic produce an effect similar to cooling lozenges. They won't cure your sore throat or help you fight off the underlying cold, but they may help dull the pain temporarily.
Gargle with warm salt water to help reduce swelling and relieve discomfort: Gargle at least once each hour with 1 tsp (5 g) of salt dissolved in 8 fl oz (240 mL) of warm water. If you have postnasal drip, gargle often to prevent more throat irritation.