drinking tea

Grandma’s trusted home remedies for sore throat relief had real science behind them.

Whenever it hurts to swallow, we’re tempted to call the family doctor for a prescription. But the American Medical Association says that viruses are the cause of the majority of sore throats, making antibiotics ineffective.

So, do what Grandma did: Instead of reaching into the medicine cabinet, head to your kitchen for natural, quick relief. You’d be surprised at just how many effective home remedies are already hiding in your pantry or refrigerator.

1. Salt Water Gargle

Because salt kills bacteria, a saltwater gargle is a favorite natural remedy. Just mix a teaspoon of salt with 8 ounces of warm water (the warmest you can tolerate), gargle for 30 seconds, then spit it out. You can achieve similar results using baking soda and warm water.

And, for a real kick, try gargling with cayenne pepper, which breaks up and moves the mucus in your throat. Add a healthy pinch of cayenne pepper to warm water and mix well. Don’t swallow, though, to avoid upsetting your stomach.

RELATED: Why Is My Voice Hoarse?

2. Breathe Steam to Ease Sore Throat

Steam can open a stuffy nose and reduce mucus drainage into your throat.

Create your own “personal steamer” by pouring very hot (not boiling) water into a bowl. You can even add some aromatic herbs like oregano, crystallized ginger, or lavender from your spice rack.

Cover your head with a towel and lean in over the water, breathing deeply. You can also reap similar benefits by breathing in the steam while taking a long, hot shower.

3. Relieve Your Throat Hot, Herbal Tea

The antioxidants found in herbal tea — with the added antibacterial properties of honey — help promote good health while delivering soothing relief to your sore throat.

NOTE: Honey should never be given to children under 1 year of age.

And a big bowl of chicken noodle soup really does much more than warm you up. Scientists have found that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties that help ease infections and loosen mucus. And, when swallowing is painful, soup is an important source of nutrition and hydration — both of which are key to faster healing.

4. Soothe Your Throat with Something Cool

While savoring your favorite Popsicle® flavor may not have direct medicinal benefits, there’s no denying its soothing effect on a sore throat. Ice chips, ice cream, and frozen fruit also help to reduce inflammation and provide temporary sore throat relief.

5. Drink Apple Cider Vinegar

Another option is to mix one part apple cider vinegar to two parts water. The natural acids in the vinegar help to kill the bacteria that lurk in your throat.

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When to See Your Doctor

A scratchy or irritated sore throat usually isn’t cause for alarm. But you should see a doctor if any of the following apply to you:

  • Severe sore throat pain lasting more than a few days
  • White spots or pus in the back of the throat, or red and swollen tonsils
  • A red rash that feels like sandpaper
  • Swollen, tender glands in the neck
  • Fever of 101 degrees or higher
  • Been around someone recently diagnosed with strep throat

Feeling under the weather? Visit a UPMC Urgent Care location near you.

About Urgent Care

Sometimes you need care right away, with no time to wait for an appointment. That’s where UPMC Urgent Care comes in. We offer prompt treatment for illnesses and injuries 12 hours a day, seven days a week. With several western Pennsylvania locations, plus more throughout the state, you can find immediate care close to you. Our services include treatment for minor injuries and illnesses, physicals, prescription filling, and flu shots and immunizations. Wait times are usually shorter than the emergency room for minor injuries and illnesses, and we accept most major insurance.