The Best Home Remedies for a Sore Throat, According to Doctors


Whether you’ve got the beginnings of that scratchy feeling or it feels like there are legit knives lining your neck, your main mission right now is the same: to find a soothing remedy for your sore throat.

After all, depending on what’s going on, a sore throat can persist for a while. Most of the time, a sore throat is caused by a virus like the common cold or flu, says the National Library of Medicine. Of course, if there’s an underlying condition—such as seasonal allergies or acid reflux—the soreness can be much more persistent.

A sore throat is a symptom and not a condition itself, so the best sore throat cure is one that addresses the condition causing it (and sometimes, unfortunately, the only true cure is time and rest). Still, you can get temporary relief from the discomfort. Here are the expert-backed home remedies for a sore throat that doctors recommend to their patients all the time:

Experts In This Article

  • Inna Husain, MD, otolaryngologist affiliated with Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana
  • Jen Caudle, DO, family physician and associate professor at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey

1. Take honey

It’s sweet, tasty, and soothing for a sore throat. “Honey is a natural lubricant and protects the tissue. We love honey for a sore throat,” says Inna Husain, MD, medical director of otolaryngology with Community Care Network in Munster, Indiana (@innahusainmd).

Indeed, one 2021 systematic review and meta-analysis in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine concluded that honey improved symptoms of upper-respiratory infections better than usual care.

You can take honey in a couple ways. One is to eat a small spoonful of honey. Manuka honey is a specific type of honey that has known antibacterial properties, Dr. Husain says, making it a good choice. However, this type of honey tends to be more expensive, so you can try regular honey that’s available in your grocery store, too.

Another gentle remedy for throat discomfort is to pop honey lozenges throughout the day. The benefit to these is that they encourage saliva flow, which also brings extra moisture into your throat, Dr. Husain says. Pick up a bag and keep it around when you feel scratchiness coming on. Try Wedderspoon’s Organic Manuka Honey Drops ($7.98, Amazon).

Pro tip: Avoid menthol lozenges, which could actually irritate your throat and make symptoms worse.

2. Gargle with salt water

Although it may not be as tasty as honey, a saltwater gargle is something doctors like Jen Caudle, DO, family physician and associate professor at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey (@drjencaudle), recommends as a one of the best soothing remedies for a sore throat, particularly if the soreness stems from a cold or the flu. “The saltwater gargle helps calm inflammation and may help with the fluid transfer in the throat that plays a role in soreness,” she says.

Likewise, Dr. Husain also recommends a saltwater gargles to patients. If you’re also dealing with excess mucous or post-nasal drip, which causes irritation as it slides down the throat, the salt water can help thin out and wash mucus away. Plus, if you have tonsils, their grooves tend to hold onto debris, as well as viruses, and the salt can act as a mechanical wash, she says.

For DIY throat pain relief, mix ¼ teaspoon of table salt in 8 ounces of warm water, advises the Mayo Clinic. Take a big sip, tilt your head back, and gargle like you would with mouthwash (just be careful not to swallow it!). Dr. Husain recommends gargling one to two times per day.

“Honey is a natural lubricant and protects the tissue. We love honey for a sore throat.” —Inna Husain, MD, otolaryngologist

3. Sip warm liquids

There’s a reason you might reach for tea when you’re sick or when you wake up with a sore throat: It’s not only hydrating but the warmth of the liquid is soothing. (Just make sure it’s not too hot.)

“Warming the muscles of the throat increases blood flow to promote tissue healing. The warmth can also help release tight or strained muscles that can develop when you’re sick or have a sore throat,” says Dr. Husain.

There are specific teas that are suited for a sore throat, like slippery elm or Throat Coat ($4.92, Walmart), which is one of the best herbal treatments for throat pain because it contains a blend of soothing herbs. However, any tea you prefer will do. (Bonus: Add honey.)

4. Inhale hot steam

Steam is a great home remedy for a sore throat. Warm, moist air helps lubricate and soothe the tissues of your throat, and for many people it can make their sore throat feel better, says Dr. Caudle.

Turn your bathroom into a temporary steam room by running your shower on hot and breathing in the steam. Or, when you’re looking for how to soothe a sore throat at night, take a warm shower before bed.

5. Wear a nasal strip

When you sleep, make sure you can breathe through your nose. “If you can open nasal passages, you’re less likely to engage in mouth breathing,” says Dr. Husain.

And mouth breathing is often the culprit behind a morning sore throat, she says. That’s because sucking in air through your mouth doesn’t humidify the air at all, but breathing through your nose does.

Go ahead and try wearing nasal strips at night to see if it helps change how you’re breathing. Try Breathe Right Extra Strength Clear Nasal Strips ($7.29, CVS).

6. Drink some pickle juice

File this one under “quick sore throat solutions.” When you’re in a pickle (sorry, had to) and need some quick relief but don’t have the time to take a steamy shower or make a cup of tea (and maybe you’re out of honey, too), open up the fridge and sip on some sour pickling liquid.

Pickle juice can help a sore throat because its concentrated nature draws water out of the tissues in your throat, which aids in bringing down inflammation.

What to avoid when you have a sore throat

Some things will just make the pain and discomfort of a sore throat worse. Here’s what to skip:

  • Lemon slices or squeezes: “Citrus is acidic, and it can cause hypersensitivity and inflammation in the throat. I take the lemon out of patients’ tea and water,” says Dr. Husain.
  • Gargling with mouthwash (especially those that contain alcohol): This can dry out the tissue in your throat, leading to more irritation, says Dr. Husain.
  • Gargling with hydrogen peroxide: It’s a commonly chatted about remedy to “kill” a sore throat at home, but be cautious. “I’m not a huge fan of this. Hydrogen peroxide can harm the lining of your tissue,” Dr. Husain says.
  • Eating foods that aggravate a sore throat: Foods that fit the “may be irritating list” include especially spicy food, says Dr. Caudle, as well as salty, crunchy foods that may hurt going down. Also, it’s best to avoid alcohol when you’re sick (yes, even a hot toddy).

When to see a doctor about a sore throat

Sometimes it’s obvious why you have a sore throat. For example, in addition to throat discomfort, you’re also sneezing, fatigued, and running a low-grade fever—you have a cold. Other times, the source of the soreness isn’t entirely obvious. There are many things that can cause a sore throat, so if yours is persistent and not going away, see your doctor for an evaluation, says Dr. Husain.

So, how long should you wait? If your sore throat lasts longer than five to 10 days, see your doctor, recommends the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

In addition, if your sore throat is severe or frequently returns, you have difficulty breathing, swallowing, or opening your mouth, your face or neck are swollen, or you have non-throat symptoms, such as joint pain, earache, rash, a fever over 101°F, a lump in your neck, blood in your saliva, or voice hoarseness for more than two weeks, see a doctor, the Academy advises.


What is the fastest way to cure a sore throat?

As much as we want the pain and scratchiness to go away, you can’t cure a sore throat because it’s a symptom of another condition, like an upper respiratory infection, acid reflux, or allergies. Once you know the cause of your sore throat, treating it is the best way to get rid of a sore throat. If you have a cold, though, you’ll have to rely on remedies like lozenges or homemade sore throat relief like saltwater gargles, which help temporarily ease the discomfort but aren’t a cure (because, unfortunately, there’s still no cure for the common cold).

What’s the best medicine for a sore throat and a cough?

To treat the pain of a sore throat, take over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (like Advil), or naproxen (like Aleve). Throat lozenges are another option. Dr. Caudle recommends Cepacol ($5.99, Amazon), which contains benzocaine (a type of local anesthetic) to relieve pain.

However, the best answer may lie in your cupboard: Honey is a tried-and-true home remedy for both a sore throat and cough. And because these are both often signs of illness, don’t forget to hydrate and get plenty of rest to help you feel better ASAP.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.

  1. Abuelgasim H, Albury C, Lee J. Effectiveness of honey for symptomatic relief in upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Evid Based Med. 2021 Apr;26(2):57-64. doi: 10.1136/bmjebm-2020-111336. Epub 2020 Aug 18. PMID: 32817011.

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