A throat infection can be a nasty business – a lot of the time, it seems like the more you cough, the worse it gets. Throat infections are usually caused by a virus, but can also be caused by a bacterial infection that is made worse with a slight injury to the mucous membranes in your throat.
Since throat infections are contagious, it can be frustrating to come down with one when someone in your household, school, or workplace has the illness. Here are a handful of home remedies for sore throat and throat infections if you ever find yourself with a dry, scratchy throat and a cough that won’t let up.
** Medical note: if your sore throat persists and/or is extremely painful, even after a few days to a week, you should see your doctor. Your persistent sore throat could be a symptom of a more serious illness.
1. Drink plenty of liquids.
You should be drinking lots of water anyway, but this is especially true when you’ve got a throat infection. Keeping your body hydrated will fight off the infection quicker (especially with natural, vitamin C-rich juices such as orange juice), and will soothe the swollenness of your throat. Stay away from coffee and drink tea instead, as coffee dehydrates you.
Another excellent drink to soothe your throat and help speed up the healing process is honey and lemon juice – mix the juice of a lemon with two teaspoons of honey into a cup of warm water. Adding a little bit of cinnamon helps with the bitter taste.
The best times to drink this are before you go to bed and when you wake up.
Especially when you go to bed – if you sleep with your mouth open, the dryness in the air can worsen your sore throat, so it helps to make sure your throat is moisturized and hydrated before going to sleep.
2. Gargle water with salt.
The simplest tip on this list, salt and water is an effective method for both cleaning and soothing your sore throat. All you need to do is mix a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle it – make sure it hits the back of your throat, though.
When you do this, the salt will cleanse the irritation in your throat and soothe the area. You may also find it helps to boil a few basil leaves in with a few cups of water, let the hot water cool down, and mix in a teaspoon of salt. Basil has natural healing properties and will also further soothe the area affected by irritation.
3. Eat a soft diet for a few days.
Avoiding crunchy-textured or tough foods for a few days will prevent your throat from becoming any more irritated. Spicy, greasy, and rough-textured foods will further irritate your throat and make it take longer to heal. Try making smoothies or a pot of soup for healthy, easy-to-eat meals as you fight your throat infection.
Drinking hot or warm soup especially will help to both soothe your throat and give you the nutrients and vitamins necessary for fighting off a throat infection. Something like a sweet potato puree or a cream of celery soup would be ideal for this – these soups are soft, tasty, and very healthy.
4. Get lots of rest.
Resting well is the most important thing you can do with a throat infection, or any other illness or ailment for that matter – if your body is exhausted, it will not function properly, and this is especially true when fighting off a bacterial or viral infection.
You should make sure you’re getting roughly 8 hours of sleep a night, and, if possible, napping and laying down lots during the day. Plenty of sleep and relaxation will help your body bounce back quicker from the infection.
5. Suck on lozenges.
Lozenges, especially those with eucalyptus or lemon, are an excellent and quick reliever of throat infection irritation. You can get them anywhere, too – the gas station, grocery store, or convenience store near you should have plenty of different kinds of lozenges for you to try.
The only thing to make sure of when taking lozenges is that you do not suck them too hard – if you suck lozenges too often and too hard, it could irritate the roof of your mouth. This irritation is harmless, but probably the last thing you want on top of a frustrating throat infection.
6. Inhale steam – with a machine or the shower.
Sometimes it helps to inhale steam when you have a sore throat – this can be done with a personal steam inhaler or simply by taking a hot shower or bath and inhaling the steam for a while.
Be sure that if you are making steam for a sick child that you monitor the child at all times – too much steam and heat can lead to dizziness and fainting, especially for young children.
7. Use over-the-counter pain relief like ibuprofen.
Usually, the biggest problem with a throat infection is the pain it causes rather than the actual infection. Over-the-counter pain relief pills, such as ibuprofen, can help to relieve the pain of the throat inflammation, as well as reduce the swelling itself.
These kinds of medications will not actually affect the infection itself, but will effectively reduce the swelling and irritation you feel in your throat.
8. Local heat care.
It may also be beneficial to apply a heating pad around your neck and throat if the pain and inflammation is particularly bad. A heating pad will reduce the swelling, soothe your throat, and help to loosen up some of the mucous.
Generally speaking, a throat infection is harmless and will eventually clear on its own. That being said, you’ve got to make sure that you’re well hydrated, well rested, and are taking precautions to keep your throat infection soothed and keeping your diet healthy.
However, as mentioned in the medical note at the beginning of this article, if your problem persists for longer than a few days or a week, you may want to see your doctor. Your sore throat, if carried out for that long, could be symptomatic of a bigger health problem.