Sore throats are the most common reason that patients visit a doctor. The tonsils and throat are very open to infection due to the contaminated air that flows through the area. The contaminated air contains pollutants, bacteria and viruses that attack throat tissue.
What is a sore throat?
Sore throats (known medically as pharyngitis) are an acute inflammation of the mucous membrane of the lower pharynx. Tonsils and the soft palate may also be inflamed. The main indication of a sore throat is pain when swallowing and sometimes a burning sensation and tightness in the throat. Secretions may be discharged from the mucous membrane or the throat may be very dry.
What causes a sore throat?
A sore throat can have many causes including:
- Common viruses and even the viruses that cause the flu. Some viruses can also produce blisters in the mouth and throat.
- Breathing through the mouth can produce throat dryness and soreness.
- Sinus drainage (post nasal drip).
- Bacteria -- the two most common bacteria to cause a sore throat are Streptococcus (which causes strep throat) and Arcanobacterium haemolyticum. Arcanobacterium causes sore throats mainly in young adults and is sometimes associated with a fine red rash.
- Sore throat appearing after treatment with antibiotics, chemotherapy, or other immune-compromising medications may be due to Candida, commonly known as 'thrush'.
- A sore throat lasting for more than two weeks can be a sign of a serious illness.
What are the symptoms of a sore throat?
Sore throat symptoms include:
- A dry, scratchy or swollen throat
- Pain when swallowing, breathing or talking
A sore throat usually occurs as a result of an infection that has its own additional symptoms. For example, if your sore throat is caused by a cold, you may also have coughing, fever, sneezing, body aches or a runny nose.
What are the remedies for a sore throat?
There are numerous options available to help you deal with this uncomfortable condition. Here are a few to get you started:
- Fluids are a great help. Sufficient intake of water helps in washing away infections quickly from your system.
- If possible, try to rest your voice for the day. Avoid straining your throat by talking too much, especially talking loudly.
- The old standard is to gargle with warm salt water (1 teaspoon salt dissolved in one glass of water) at least a few times a day. It eases the scorching feeling in your throat. It works by improving the circulation around the throat area. It also cleans the pharynx, thus enabling your immune system to be more potent.
- Gargling with an infusion made of henna leaves (mehandi leaves) heals a sore throat as it has antibacterial properties.
- Mango bark helps to soothe a sore throat as well as other similar illnesses. You need to extract the fluid of the bark which is then ground, and applied to the throat. Ground bark can also be used to gargle by stirring 10 ml of it into 125 ml of water.
- Baking soda and salt gargle: mix 1/2 a teaspoon each of baking soda and salt with 1/2 a cup of warm water and gargle a few times each day.
- Put ginger root in a glass of hot water, wait 5-10 minutes and drink. Repeat several times a day.
- Coarsely powdered cinnamon (dalchini) added to a glass of water along with two tablespoons of honey and a pinch of ground pepper and then boiled, is another remedy for sore throat.
- Mix 2 tablespoons of sesame (til) oil and one tbsp of honey. Take one spoon three times a day.
- Avoid fried or cold foods, very cold drinks and anything sour as they can aggravate a sore throat.
- Another useful home remedy is to fill a tablespoon halfway with honey and then squeeze a lemon to fill up the spoon. Thereafter, add a sprinkle of pepper, put the spoon in your mouth, and suck on it slowly.
- Garlic (lahsun) is also known to relieve a sore throat as it is a natural antiseptic. It can be eaten as well as consumed in tea.
- Sucking on hard candy, in the sugar-free variety, helps to keep your mouth and throat moist, which can help you get some relief from a sore throat.
There are several over-the-counter remedies available for a sore throat. However, these herbal treatments can be of great help in healing it, whether the infection is caused by a cold, voice overuse or other viral or bacterial infections.