By BitMED Provider: Traci French MD

Sore throat or pharyngitis is a common problem that can make you miserable. Bacterial infections such as strep throat or viral infections such as mononucleosis can cause throat pain. Other causes of throat pain include overusing your vocal cords, exposure to cigarette smoke or other pollutants, allergies and dry air found indoors in winter. Here are a few ways to soothe a sore throat:

Gargle with a mixture of 1 teaspoon salt added to 1 cup of warm water and repeat every hour until improved. DO NOT SWALLOW. Adding a little lemon juice may help with your symptoms and improve the taste of the gargle.
Swallow a teaspoon of honey or drink warm chamomile tea. Kids usually tolerate this remedy better than a salt water gargle but honey should not be given to children under the age of 1.
Try over the counter throat lozenges or throat sprays but follow label directions and use with caution in children under age 18. A homemade herbal recipe for throat drops consists of 5 tablespoons coconut oil, 1 ½ teaspoons honey, ½ teaspoon ground ginger and 1 teaspoon slippery elm powder. Mix together, place in a candy mold or ice cube tray and pop into the freezer until set then store in the refrigerator. Adding Vitamin C powder or cinnamon may make your throat drops more effective. (Recipe courtesy of Mommypotamus).
Try to get extra sleep and increase your fluid intake. Over the counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help but follow recommended dosing instructions.
Steamy showers or using a humidifier can improve your symptoms as well. Try adding eucalyptus or peppermint oil to decrease congestion and ease throat pain but be careful to avoid slipping in the tub.

When Should I See a Doctor?

See a doctor if your symptoms last longer than three days, if you notice a rash or if you develop a fever greater than 102 degrees.
Seek a medical provider immediately if you have a sore throat and shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing.
Other worrisome signs include hoarseness in your voice for longer than two weeks, large swollen lumps in your neck, and weight loss.

What Happens When I See the Doctor?

Your medical provider will examine you and may order further testing based on your symptoms and personal medical history. He or she may recommend rest and symptom relief for your pharyngitis but take your entire dose of medication if antibiotics are prescribed. Follow up with your doctor if you still have symptoms after your treatment is completed or if you feel worse instead of better within two days of your appointment. 

Prevention is the Best Cure

One of the best things you can do for your health is to stop smoking. Smoking is a common cause of throat pain and can lead to cancer of the throat as well as increasing your likelihood of catching colds and the flu. Washing your hands frequently also decreases your chances of getting sick. A yearly flu shot will improve your chances of not catching the bugs that cause pharyngitis. If you have symptoms such as cough, runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes along with your sore throat, ask your doctor if you have allergic rhinitis and your provider can recommend a treatment plan.