Did you ever wake up in the middle of the night with the feeling that someone dumped a load of hot coals down your throat? Or do you get that stinging sensation when you try to swallow – you know, the signal that another cold is on the way? A sore throat is no picnic.
A sore throat and cough often go hand in hand, but have you ever stopped to think about sore throat symptoms or sore throat causes and what we can do about it? Without running to the pharmacy…
Sore throat causes
A sore throat is caused by something called pharyngitis. This refers to an inflammation of the throat. The most frequent reason behind a sore throat is usually a viral infection, such as the common cold or the influenza (flu). Most often sore throat treatment may just be about rest or trying sore throat natural remedies like honey. A teaspoon does wonders! Or try a homemade honey onion syrup. More on those sore throat homeopathic remedies in a minute.
However, the source of a sore throat can also be from bacteria. In these cases, the infection is called a streptococcal infection or strep throat. While this is less common, it can be more serious than a viral infection and may require antibiotics.
But, like the viral version, there are strep throat natural remedies out there as well.
Other causes of sore throat include allergens such as pollens and molds, cat and dog dander, and house dust. Sometimes a sore throat is the reaction to an irritation caused by dry heat, pollutants and chemicals, and straining your voice when you’re out at a rock concert!
Another source of a sore throat can be your stomach. Acid reflux up into the back of the throat can cause you to wake up at night with a sore throat.
While there are many causes of a sore throat, we’re going to focus on the viral and bacterial causes of a sore throat and sore throat homeopathic remedies.
What can be done about a sore throat?
Often our knee-jerk reaction to a sore throat is to go to the drug store for some kind of over-the-counter drug to take to treat our symptoms. And while there are a lot of options out there, more and more people are questioning whether the best solution to a sore throat is a drug – or are there are other remedies that they can try at home instead.
In fact, there are more than a few simple solutions that you can try to help soothe your throat. Let’s go through them here:
Get hydrated. Sometimes the solution to a sore throat is simply increasing the amount of liquids you consume.
Remedy dry air. A sore throat may just be your body’s way of crying out for a change in environment. Try adding more moisture to the air you breathe by running a steamer or humidifier in your bedroom. Or, as an alternative, you can try to run the shower in a closed bathroom to increase moisture in the air.
Try a salt water gargle. Then there is the solution your grandmother told you about – gargle with salt water several times a day. It turns out that there is science to back this remedy up. When you gargle with salt water, osmosis occurs. Osmosis is when solvents move from lower concentrations to higher concentrations to create equilibrium. Gargling with salt water creates a dehydrated environment that the bacteria find less hospitable and potentially dangerous.
Another favorite home remedy is honey. Whether it’s in tea or on it’s own, many people turn to the gift of the bees to help them feel better. But like your grandma’s gargling solution, is there something to this one as well? The short answer? Yes!
Honey has a number of antimicrobial properties that not only soothe sore throat but can also kill certain bacteria that cause infection. Also, due to the consistency of honey, it is soothing for sore throats and coughs. It has been used for centuries around the world, so honey for sore throats is not a new concept.
And while we all love honey, when it comes to sore throat natural remedies for toddlers, it’s important to remember not to give it to children under one-year-old. Honey contains botulism spores that can make children under one very sick. These spores do not affect adults and children over the age of one. Often the combination of honey and hot tea are the trick to soothing the symptoms of sore throat and a cough. Usually people have these several times throughout the day.
When is it time to see a doctor?
Whenever a sore throat is severe, persists longer than the usual seven days for a cold or flu, and if the sore throat is not associated with an allergy or irritation, you should see your health care provider. Pay close attention to these following signs and symptoms that may be telling you that your sore throat could be the symptom of a more serious problem:
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty opening the mouth
- Joint pain
- Blood in saliva or phlegm
- Lump in neck
- Hoarseness lasting over two weeks.
When you go into a clinic to test for strep throat, your doctor may want to do a throat culture, which is a non-surgical procedure that uses an instrument to take a sampling of cells in your throat. Since this culture does not detect other infections, when it is negative, your doctor will base their decision about treatment on the severity of your symptoms and the appearance of your throat.
So while all sore throats are not exactly alike, it’s important to not take them lightly. A sore throat may be the symptom of something more significant going on either within your body or in the outside environment you are a part of.
It’s also good to know that in the cases of viral-based sore throats, simple solutions like bed rest and natural remedies like honey and gargling salt water can save you a trip to the pharmacy.