Please help me alleviate my sore throat pain
October 28, 2009 6:28 PM   Subscribe

What do you do to help your sore throat feel better?

You are not my doctor, and I am not looking for a cure or any sort of diagnosis. I am having chronic sore throats (every 2-4 weeks since May), have been to an Ear, Nose, & Throat doctor, and will be having a tonsillectomy in January/February 2010. In the meantime, however, I need to cope with the pain and discomfort associated with swollen glands, tonsilitis, and throat pain. Basically, I hydrate constantly which helps, but I have the feeling there are other things I could be trying that might make this more bearable. What do you do to feel better when you have a sore throat?

Things I have tried include Chloraseptic (helps for about 20 minutes and then konks out), Advil (seems to dull the pain slightly), Vicks (the ointment seems to relax the muscles a little), lots of seltzer water (the carbonation feels good in my throat), and some ice cream and tea (definitely helps, but not long lasting by any means). Do you have any other ideas? I am happy to try anything that sounds safe. Thank you!
posted by katemcd to Health & Fitness (49 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
A teaspoon of honey can coat the throat and help for a bit.

My favorite remedy, though, is to boil some raw ginger root and then mix it with a teaspoon of honey. It's incredibly effective for me.

Good luck.

By the way, do they have a diagnosis for you other than tonsillitis?
posted by bluedaisy at 6:33 PM on October 28, 2009

Gargling with warm salt water always makes my throat feel wonderful when it hurts to swallow.
posted by iconomy at 6:33 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Zinc lozenges.
posted by headnsouth at 6:34 PM on October 28, 2009

Numbing cough drops. I think Cepacol makes some that don't taste too horribly. I'm also not ashamed to admit that I do Chloraseptic spray far more often than the label recommends.
posted by honeybee413 at 6:35 PM on October 28, 2009

Agree with iconomy. Warm salt water does the trick.
posted by orrnyereg at 6:35 PM on October 28, 2009

Response by poster: My official diagnosis is "chronic tonsillitis." As one of my co-workers said to me, tonsils are wonderful things and serve an important purpose until they go to the dark side. I think my tonsils have officially and irredeemably been corrupted.
posted by katemcd at 6:38 PM on October 28, 2009

Have you tried Sucrets? I don't have tonsil problems, but two of those one after the other always fix my sore throats in minutes.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:41 PM on October 28, 2009

Yogi Tea makes a sore throat tea; it tastes pretty good, and actually is surprisingly comforting to a sore throat. Throat Coat, which lots of singers use, is similar.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:41 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

My friend makes a drink of hot water, local honey,apple cider vinegar and lemon to soothe her sore throats. It's very acidic, so not good to have more than once or twice a day.

I often will make fresh ginger tea (just ginger root steeped in hot water) with a lot of honey. Or heated up orange juice with fresh ginger, lemon and honey.

By now, you are probably sensing a trend.
posted by piratebowling at 6:46 PM on October 28, 2009

2nding Cepacol drops.
posted by greta simone at 6:46 PM on October 28, 2009

In the South we drink a hot totty. Equal parts honey, lemon juice, and whiskey, warmed and sipped. My grandmother gave me these as a child, and I still swear buy them.
posted by jefficator at 6:48 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Potato Chips (aka crisps). Apparently it's an old singer's trick. The salt numbs and the fat coats. Salt & Vinegar potato chips are my go-to when I get a sore throat.

You might also want to try a humidifier at night. Oh and I've heard good things about horehound root but never tried it.
posted by for_serious at 6:52 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: These are great guys, & I will definitely give them all a try. I am particularly curious about the ginger concoctions and the potato chips. Thanks & keep 'em coming!
posted by katemcd at 7:00 PM on October 28, 2009

Really, really hot tea with lemon and honey dissolved in. Inhale the steam until the tea is barely too hot to drink, and then sip it slowly.

The heat from the tea seems to numb my throat, and although I don't usually go for alternative healing, the lemon and honey are reputably good for healing.

Have you tried cough drops with menthol? Those can be soothing as well.

Is Advil an anti-inflammatory? For inflammatory pain like this I have better luck with Aleve, but every body is different. Failing that, can you get a stronger prescription from your doc?
posted by muddgirl at 7:01 PM on October 28, 2009

Have you tried a neti pot? I found a lot of my discomfort was from post nasal drip and mucous sitting on top of my soft palate and irritating/inflaming it.
posted by gramcracker at 7:03 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

My husband has a sore throat as we speak and has been downing "Throat Coat" tea by Traditional Medicinals and Advil. I would also second the neti pot and some Claritin if you're interested. Both can help with the post nasal drip that is causing the sore throat.
posted by defreckled at 7:10 PM on October 28, 2009

What works for me:

1. Super-strong ginger tea: Scrub or peel fresh ginger root. Slice. Put in pot of about 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Simmer for a good time (I do 15 minutes minimum). Pour through strainer or just scoop the ginger chunks out. Add honey and maybe lemon. Sip. I make up a strong batch and freeze it in jars so I always have a supply. It's also helpful for nausea.

2. Spicy food!

3. Little or no dairy (gums up my throat but maybe not yours).

Also seconding the neti pot.
posted by PatoPata at 7:13 PM on October 28, 2009

Haribo Super Piratos, there is no substitute!
posted by lundman at 7:16 PM on October 28, 2009

Someone once turned me on to the sooth-y goodness of sucking on a salted lime wedge - I couldn't even begin to tell you why this might work, but somehow it does (well, for me at least).

And of course if it doesn't work for you, at least it'll prime your cravings for margaritas once you're all better ...
posted by DingoMutt at 7:16 PM on October 28, 2009

all this lemon and honey sounds good and all, but if i have SERIOUS throat pain, the only thing that works is menthol. some sort of mentholated throat spray and the halls of medicine or their generic equivalent. also, percoset. and alcohol. look, i'm goody-goody natural about most other things in life. but pain management sometimes calls for bringing in the bigger guns.
posted by apostrophe at 7:17 PM on October 28, 2009

oh and popsicles!
posted by apostrophe at 7:17 PM on October 28, 2009

Aspirin. Not Advil, not Tylenol, just aspirin.
posted by Houstonian at 7:20 PM on October 28, 2009

Thayers Slippery Elm lozenges.
posted by jgirl at 7:20 PM on October 28, 2009

Thayers Slippery Elm lozenges. Nice flavor, too.
posted by jgirl at 7:22 PM on October 28, 2009

Thirding Throat Coat tea. Also, a good bowl of hot and sour soup from your local Thai restaurant.
posted by platinum at 7:27 PM on October 28, 2009

Four advil every 4-6 hours (so it builds up nicely in the system), spicy food (I like thai curry or sort of Chinese-y chicken soup with garlic, ginger, and heaps of chili sauce especially), and, like so many others, very strong ginger tea. I chop (or grate for stronger flavor), simmer it for 20-30 minutes with some lemon and/or grapefruit slices and either a pinch of cayenne or a bit of dried chili. I like it gingery enough to be notably spicy and bracing and add honey to taste. A wee shot of whiskey or brandy is nice as well.

I'll also add my voice to the suggestions for a neti pot and claritin. If you've got chronic tonsillitis, your biggest problem isn't allergy related post-nasal drip, but I bet it isn't helping. I've got monster tonsils and they feel much less irritable with I keep allergy drip to a minimum.
posted by mostlymartha at 7:33 PM on October 28, 2009

I like to put a big dollop of honey citron tea in a mug of regular hot tea. (I prefer Matsuda brand but couldn't find a picture of it for you.) The name is a bit misleading: it's like a runny marmalade and contains no tea. I think it's better for a sore throat than plain lemon juice and honey in tea (maybe because it contains thickeners that coat the throat a little?)

It's a Korean product that you can find in a large Asian grocery store. It will probably be in the section with tea and coffee, not with jams and preserves. I'm not wild about the stuff when I'm healthy, but I really crave it when I have a sore throat!
posted by Quietgal at 7:42 PM on October 28, 2009

1. Ginger and honey, as mentioned before. You can take a small piece of ginger too and eat with about a teaspoon of honey. Don't gulp all the honey in one go and finish ginger later- the latter by itself can make it worse.

2. Gargle with warm water, every 15-20 minutes or as often as you can. (Brush your teeth after every meal and gargle after every meal.

3. Gargle with warm water and a little listerine in it. (My favourite remedy. Original Listerine works best for me)

4. Avoid anything too cold like ice-creams. Even though it may feel better while eating it, in the long run you are making your problem worse.

5. No spicy foods. Bland food is best.

If you can work with 5, and follow 2 or 3 every 20-30 minutes for two days or so you should be able to feel better.

Also, since the problem occurs every few weeks, have you paid attention to what you ate before it starts? (A few years ago when I used to get strep throat every other year or so, the problem almost always started when I had ice-cream or very spicy foods)

I hope you feel better soon :)
posted by xm at 7:46 PM on October 28, 2009

(Oh and since you have a million suggestions to try already, you might want to try things one by one and analyze the results before jumping on to the next remedy. Else you will never know what worked)
posted by xm at 7:48 PM on October 28, 2009

Last point. Some docs don't recommend you remove tonsils. The argument being that they act as a filter. Even people who get them removed eventually start getting the same proble
posted by xm at 7:51 PM on October 28, 2009

Zetts lozenges. The only place I can find them are at the pharmacy counter at CVS individually wrapped for about 15 cents each. Sometimes they have a little pack of 5 of them over by the bagged throat lozenges. They are well worth the money.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:16 PM on October 28, 2009

spoon of honey + spoon of cinnamon, in a mug, add hot water, stir. Don't drink the grits at the bottom.
posted by titanium_geek at 8:19 PM on October 28, 2009

When I was a kid/teenager I used to use pomegranate extract, which helped with both parched throat and inflammation. I used to live in a very polluted city, and get sore throats every year, and pomegranate extract was the only non-pharmaceutical that worked. I have never seen pomegranate extract for sale here in the US, but you might find it

After college, the treatment I use most is beer - my roommate had a saying that "a sore throat must be treated with beer" (basically, when it feels like it's going to start to hurt, you drink some beer), that meme evolved into a tradition among our group, and ever since I started with that I never had a painful inflammation again (I got swollen tonsils earlier this year, but no pain). I once walked out at 20F with a friend with a sore throat to go to a pub to get beer (and, admittedly, a nice Irish stew). His throat got better the following day. YMMV.
posted by qvantamon at 8:19 PM on October 28, 2009

that's liquid extract, not capsules.
posted by qvantamon at 8:21 PM on October 28, 2009

I keep a bottle of Sambuca in the freezer for sore throats. It certainly won't cure anything, but it'll definitely make things feel better.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:31 PM on October 28, 2009

For sore throats and tickley coughs, I crush Halls cherry cough drops and stir them into whiskey until they dissolve. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it.
posted by buzzv at 8:42 PM on October 28, 2009

I nix the honey idea or anything sugary including lozenges, popsicles and ice cream.
A lot of people swear by these methods, but for me they just don't work.

For your tea, put grated or pickled ginger and a generous dash of cayenne pepper in the cup before you pour water on it.
Do not add honey. Sugars just make it worse.

What works best for me is taking a big swig (or three or four, periodically) from
the jar of pickled jalepenos in the fridge. The brine and the peppers are great.
posted by at the crossroads at 8:43 PM on October 28, 2009

ginger tea
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 8:56 PM on October 28, 2009

Seconding just aspirin!
posted by cda at 8:58 PM on October 28, 2009

sip a nice cold beer.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:21 PM on October 28, 2009

boil some raw ginger root and then mix it with a teaspoon of honey
Like tea, transferring flavour is all about making a lot of the ginger's surface area available to hot water. It's much quicker to finely grate the ginger using a typical parmesan-sized grater (eg. 2-3mm diameter) and then combine with hot water and honey.

I suggest 2 lumped teaspoons of grated ginger, a tablespoon of honey, and two teaspoons of lemon juice per cup. Leave it for 5 minutes and filter it as you would tea.
posted by holloway at 9:25 PM on October 28, 2009

My lovely wife makes a drink of whiskey, honey, lemon (juice & zest), hot water and cloves. Works a treat. The kids have it without the whiskey and it helps, so I think the booze is not strictly necessary.
posted by col at 2:47 AM on October 29, 2009

You don't say where you are. In the UK you can get antibiotic lozenges over the counter called Tyrozets. They are great for when you get a sore throat after a cold (the virus has gone and left you with a bacterial infection). Tyrozets are dual action - the pain killer numbs the throat a little and the antibiotic kills the bacteria. One or two doses and I'm normally fine.
posted by w0mbat at 3:47 AM on October 29, 2009

As someone who has tonsillitis every other month, I can strongly vouch for Difflam spray. It just zaps a sore throat in a matter of seconds.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:57 AM on October 29, 2009

That chloraseptic stuff that you spray into the back of your throat to numb it.
BC Powder swallowed with hot tea.
These (sold in drug stores/groceries).
Also, my air purifier always gives me a sore throat. I would avoid those.
posted by bunny hugger at 6:23 AM on October 29, 2009

Response by poster: Holy moly, I did not expect so many responses! Thanks so much, everyone! I wanted to address a few of the suggestions:

1. I am a big fan of sinus rinses (aka neti pots), and do them regularly. If someone else ever stumbles across this thread looking for help, I would recommend them, especially if you are allergy prone.

2. I also take C & Zinc lozenges, and love them (and anything vaguely tart or sour), but canker sores often follow, so I have to be careful not to overdo it, and occasionally need to take a break from anything acidic.

3. I used a humidifier last night, and while I did pick up on a noticeable difference, I'm going to keep using one, because it certainly can't hurt.

4. Sadly, my tolerance for spicy foods is pretty much non-existent, but I've also noticed bland food and beverages seem to go down easiest for me when this crops up. I think this is one of those YMMV things.

I am going to try things one at a time, and really give them a chance to work. My first thing will be the Difflam, because Chloraseptic just isn't cutting it, and I don't think work would appreciate me having whiskey in my mug! Oh, and the potato chips because that is just too interesting not to investigate. I am also a big salt & vinegar fan, so I'll start there first. I wonder if french fries would also work, just because they have the requisite salt and fat (I can always add malt vinegar), and the softer texture sounds more appealing.

Also, to answer a few of the questions:

1. I live in the US. Boston, MA to be specific.

2. Sadly, here doesn't seem to be a pattern involved with the onset of the sore throats, other than they happen with increasing frequency, and seemingly with worse symptoms (though this could just be a major decrease in my wearwithall since this is happening so often). I've had sore throats and tonsil stones (if you don't know what they are, please do yourself a favor and don't Google them, they are gross) all my life, more so since puberty, and with increasing frequency as I get older. At 32, I think I've finally reached the tipping point & these suckers have to go.

3. I know some doctors don't recommend tonsillectomies, and I appreciate it being mentioned as something to consider. If I thought I could avoid it, I would, especially since the recovery sounds incredibly painful and uncomfortable, but I truly believe this is the right thing for me. I don't expect never to have a sore throat again (like headaches, I think they are just a thing that happens to all of us in varying frequency), but I am fairly certain I will not be going through this every few weeks anymore. It's become a real quality of life issue since I either need to drag myself into work anyways (there are just not enough sick days in the world), or spend entire weekends or days off at home resting. A couple of times a year, that's fine, but a couple of times a month is just ridiculous.

Thanks again everyone for taking the time to pass on your remedies. Unfortunately, I think I will have ample opporunity within the next couple of months to try them all. Maybe I should write a "You and Your Sore Throats" book when this is all over. I, of course, would dedicate it to MeFites everywhere.
posted by katemcd at 8:19 AM on October 29, 2009

Russian tea (the kind with Tang) saved my sanity when I had bronchitis, pneumonia, and strep all at the same time. It's great for soothing sore throats and wracking coughs.

Also, the point of lozenges is the sugar turning to syrup in your mouth and coating your throat (menthol and other ingredients are for clearing sinuses, boosting immune system response, flavor, etc.), and you can get that same effect from honey, any hard candy, or any liqueur (with the added effect of the alcohol killing some germs and acting as a pain reliever).
posted by notashroom at 8:37 AM on October 29, 2009

I'm currently brewing Traditional Medicinals "Organic Throat Coat." It's got a bunch of the herbs or spices mentioned above, but its main ingredient is licorice root, which apparently is good for your throat.

I found this at my local grocery store in the organic tea section, but the website is

I've found it to be soothing - and the licorice root (the flavor of which I'm not a huge fan of) is mild, taste-wise.

Good luck.

Also, three of my adult friends (ages 27 through 30 at the time) had tonsillectomies in the last three years. Some recoveries were better than others, but all three were glad when it was over.
posted by bozichsl at 11:53 AM on October 29, 2009

Nthing the recommendations for fresh (only fresh) ginger root.

Slice the ginger root into thin pieces. Then put those pieces in a mug, mash them up with the back of a spoon so they become as juicy as possible, and fill the mug with very hot water. Add honey if the flavor's too strong for you. It's miraculous for a sore throat.
posted by kalapierson at 12:07 AM on November 22, 2009

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