1. Rest your body — and your voice
Sore throats are very common and usually get better by themselves within a week. Getting a good night’s sleep always helps to help fight off infection. Experts advise those with a sore throat to stay well hydrated, although hot drinks should be avoided. Sucking on ice cubes, ice lollies or hard sweets can soothe the inflammation.
2. Ease the discomfort with over-the-counter options
If you feel uncomfortable, take paracetamol or ibuprofen. There are also medicated sore-throat lozenges and anaesthetic sprays available over the counter that claim to target pain in the throat with anti-inflammatories. Although some experts say there’s little proof they help, a 2011 study of two different kinds of medicated lozenges found they brought relief and eased soreness and difficulty swallowing within minutes; effects lasted up to two hours post-dose.
3. Make your own gargle
Gargling with warm salt water may help to reduce inflammation. (It is not recommended for children.) Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of partly cooled boiled water, gargle with the solution, then spit it out. Repeat as necessary. ‘It’s inexpensive and everyone can do it at home — I recommend this to most patients,’ says Abraham Khodadi, a prescribing pharmacist who vlogs weekly about health on YouTube as Abraham the Pharmacist.
4. Don’t assume you need antibiotics
Most sore throats are caused by a virus, so they cannot be treated by antibiotics — even though in many cases they are prescribed anyway. Last year, sore throats accounted for nearly a quarter of inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions in England. Such prescriptions contribute to the global threat of antibiotic resistance. In 2013 US researchers reported that from 1997 to 2010 about 60 per cent of patients with sore throats received antibiotics, even though only about 10 per cent needed them. Viral sore throats are accompanied by other cold symptoms that may include a runny nose, cough, red or watery eyes, and sneezing. The symptoms of streptococcal pharyngitis, ‘strep throat’, a bacterial infection, are similar, but likely to be more severe, and possibly accompanied by a high temperature or feeling hot and shivery.
5. Boost your immune system
You can safeguard against sore throats by eating a healthy balanced diet, says Khodadi, as well as by having a flu jab. This should alleviate the need for supplements in otherwise healthy people, he says. Taking a daily vitamin D supplement in winter may help to boost immunity.
6. Watch for irritants
Smoking cigarettes can cause a sore throat by irritating the windpipe. ‘When an irritant is introduced in the system, the body tries to get rid of it by coughing, which can result in more inflammation,’ says Khodadi. Smoking also lowers immunity, which can lead to recurrent viral and bacterial infection, and weakens the lower oesophageal sphincter between the stomach and oesophagus (or food pipe), causing acid reflux from the stomach, which can irritate the throat. Other causes of a sore throat include pollution or irritants in the air, allergies, dry air, and changes in temperature, such as going from a cool office to the warm outdoors.
7. See a healthcare professional
If your sore throat persists beyond a week or is recurring, see your GP.
Also part of this health special:
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