Hot sauce and other home remedies for a sore throat
The good news is that there are home remedies that can ease a sore throat. But not every home remedy you hear about is helpful — or even healthy.
“If you’re ingesting unknown substances, we don’t know if they’re safe,” says UCLA Health pediatrician Carlos F. Lerner, MD. He admits there’s no harm in trying everyday things you would otherwise eat. But to ensure your remedy will work, he recommends sticking with tried-and-true solutions to ease sore throat pain.
What helps with sore throats?
Viruses do cause most sore throats. But sore throats caused by bacteria or allergies may be treatable with medicine. That’s why it’s important to determine whether your sore throat requires a trip to the doctor .
“On some occasions, a sore throat can be a sign of something more serious,” Dr. Lerner says. “If it’s going on too long, seems severe or is associated with other worrisome symptoms, seek care. Don’t just stick with the home remedies.”
But no matter what’s causing your sore throat, you’ll likely still want relief from pain and discomfort. Give these remedies a try:
Over-the-counter pain relief
When the membranes in the throat get inflamed, the result is dryness and difficulty swallowing. Treating the inflammation with pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) is an easy way to soothe a sore throat.
“It makes sense to consider starting with these first,” Dr. Lerner says. “They are effective and last longer than most other home remedies.” To make sure an over-the-counter pain reliever is safe for you, read the label or check with your physician.
Washing your mouth and throat (gargling) with warm salt water clears away mucus and helps reduce inflammation. Gargle often — once an hour if needed — using a mixture of ½ teaspoon salt and 8 ounces warm water.
A baking soda gargle has a similar effect. Mix ¼ teaspoon baking soda and ⅛ teaspoon salt into 1 cup of warm water. Use it three to four times daily and rinse your mouth with plain water afterward.
For decades, experts have recommended honey for sore throat and cough. And research shows that honey is just as effective as some cough suppressants. Most people eat honey on its own or add it to hot tea.
One warning: Never give honey to children under age 1. It contains certain toxins that cause an illness known as infant botulism.
When it hurts to swallow, it’s easy to become dehydrated. Adding fluids solves that problem and also soothes sore throat pain. Cold fluids such as ice pops or ice cubes can help numb the pain. If hot liquids feel better, reach for broth or tea — chamomile and peppermint tea have anti-inflammatory properties.
Hot pepper may not be the obvious choice for a sore throat. But it contains capsaicin, a natural compound that fights inflammation and blocks pain. Mix a sprinkle of cayenne pepper or a few drops of hot sauce into warm water and gargle — but not if you have open sores in your mouth.
Lozenges and hard candy
Keeping the throat moist can soothe discomfort and sucking on lozenges or hard candy stimulates saliva production. As a bonus, some over-the-counter lozenges contain menthol, which can numb throat pain.
Keep in mind, lozenges and hard candy are choking hazards. Don’t pop one in your mouth if there’s a chance you’ll fall asleep. And never give them to children under age 5.
Humidifier or steam shower
Dry air can irritate an already sore throat and prolong recovery. Inhaling steam or adding moisture to the air with a humidifier can help. Just clean the humidifier before using it — a dirty one can be a breeding ground for mold and bacteria.
Nasal decongestant or saline drops
Sometimes a sore throat is made worse with too much mouth breathing — often the result of a clogged nose. If you have congestion, try using saline drops or a nasal decongestant. They can clear up your nose and end any post-nasal drip, giving your sore throat a chance to heal.
Sore throat relief for children
Sore throats are common in kids. But parents should be wary of trying home remedies they haven’t discussed with their pediatrician.
“I’m always cautious with younger kids who can’t report back to parents when something is wrong,” Dr. Lerner says. “In those cases, stick with the safe, tried-and-true remedies, which can be effective.”
If your sore throat is severe or getting worse, reach out to your primary care physician.