How to Soothe a Sore Throat

Doctor Q&A

This season has seen a high prevalence of the flu and, with that, a high occurrence of sore throats.

Even this late in the season, as more overall viruses continue to circulate, people with already-lowered immune systems are exposed to yet another bout of sickness. That’s a lot of sore throats!

What to Expect

A lot of patients come into our office believing they have strep throat, but traditionally strep throat causes only 15 to 30 percent of sore throats in children and only 5 to 15 percent in adults.

That means most sore throats are viral in nature and cannot be cured with antibiotics.

Most viral sore throats, including those associated with the flu, can be looked at as similar to the common cold. These typically last three to seven days, but residual symptoms, such as coughing and congestion, can last up to two weeks.

What to Do

  • The best remedies for a sore throat are rest and increased fluids.
  • Over-the-counter medications, such as Tylenol or anti-inflammatories (Advil, Motrin or Aleve) are effective. The key is taking an adequate dose. **Note: A healthy adult can take up to 3000 mg of Tylenol daily and up to 2400 mg of Advil daily. These can even be taken in combination.
  • Cold drinks, warm drinks (including chicken soup) and frozen sweets, while not necessarily therapeutic, may give short-term relief.

Busting the Myths

  • Although many sprays containing topical anesthetics are available over the counter for sore throat pain, they are unfortunately no more effective than sucking on hard candy.
  • Lozenges are similar to sprays, but because they last longer, any short-term symptomatic relief you receive may be slightly more effective.
  • Salt water gargles are an old remedy for throat pain. They are not proven to work, but not harmful.
  • Alternative treatments found at health food stores and online are not recommended, given the lack of safety data. Most are not FDA-approved.

What to Drink

Fruit smoothies to the rescue

Smoothies are not only soothing, but healthier than eating ice cream. Try these recipes to put out the fire in your throat:

Banana Almond Smoothie

1 banana

¼ c. vanilla frozen yogurt

1 c. vanilla almond milk

1 T. honey

4 ice cubes

1 t. cinnamon


Blend all ingredients, except cinnamon, in blender until smooth. Top with cinnamon.

Banana Berry Smoothie

1 banana

1 large handful frozen berries (any kind, or mixed)

2 c. milk

1 squeeze of clear honey


Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth. Add crushed ice and blend to desired texture.

Keep it simple with the kids

I often suggest children be allowed to indulge in a favorite shake or ice cream treat. This will soothe the throat and provide some likely needed calories, as children with sore throats tend to eat less.

When to Ask for Help

Seek medical help for prolonged sore throat or if your symptoms worsen after several days.

In rare cases, throat inflammation can be so significant there is concern for airway obstruction. In these cases, additional medication may be prescribed, and some patients may even be hospitalized. 

Typically, these patients will also be prescribed antibiotics based on clinical presentation, even if a throat culture is negative for bacterial infection.

To have your throat evaluated, make a no-wait appointment online at