How can I ease sore throat pain?

Treatment for a sore throat depends on the cause. Some general tips to relieve sore throat discomfort include:

  • Drink warm fluids, such as hot tea with lemon or broth.
  • Increase the total amount of fluids you drink. This keeps you hydrated and prevents your throat from getting dry.
  • Gargle with salt water (1/4 teaspoon of salt per cup of water).
  • If you are an adult, keep your throat moist with throat lozenges, ice chips, or hard candies. Do not give lozenges or hard candies to children under two years of age. They are a choking hazard. Instead, give your child a popsicle.
  • Use a numbing throat spray or cold liquids to reduce pain.
  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer to add moisture to rooms you spend time in, especially your bedroom when you are sleeping.
  • Get plenty of rest -- at least 8 hours of sleep a night.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about possible over-the-counter medicines to try. Never give aspirin to children because it can cause Reye’s syndrome. Do not give cough or cold medicines to children under four years of age unless your doctor tells you to.

More specific sore throat treatments based on its cause include the following:

  • Bacterial infection: If you’ve tested positive for strep throat following a throat swab, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to clear up the infection. Common antibiotics to treat strep throat include penicillin and clindamycin. It’s important to finish the entire course of antibiotics (even if you feel better after a few doses) so the infection doesn’t return.
  • Viral infection: Viruses cause most sore throats. Your doctor may recommend drinking lots of fluids, taking over-the-counter pain relievers (such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen), and getting plenty of rest. You can also try throat lozenges.
  • Allergies: Over-the-counter antihistamine medication can relieve nasal congestion that causes postnasal drip.
  • Acid reflux: In addition to over-the-counter antacids, lifestyle changes may relieve your heartburn and sore throat. Try sleeping on your left side with your head slightly elevated. Don’t overeat, and don’t eat right before bedtime. If your symptoms don’t improve, talk to your doctor.
  • Vocal overuse: Resting your voice will allow your throat time to heal. Try not to talk as much or sing for a couple of days. You can also drink tea and other warm liquids. Avoid irritants like smoke/secondhand smoke and spicy foods because they can make your sore throat worse.

To prevent infections that cause sore throat, wash your hands often (with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or alcohol-based hand sanitizers), stay away from people who are sick and sneezing and coughing, and don’t share utensils, food or drink with people who are sick.

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