It is a familiar feeling that gets in the way of a busy day. You suddenly notice that your throat feels scratchy and hurts when you swallow. It could be caused by a temporary irritations or something more serious, but the first thing you want is some relief.

Most sore throats are caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold and influenza. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that these throat problems are generally minor and go away on their own. Here are six ways to soothe your next sore throat:

1. Keep Your Throat Moist

A sore throat always seems worse in the morning because your throat gets dry overnight. Drink plenty of liquids and use lozenges, cough drops, or hard candies to stimulate saliva production. Brands with a cooling or numbing ingredient, like menthol or eucalyptus, may also help.

2. Enjoy Hot Tea and Soup

Tired of drinking water all day? A cup of herbal tea can help soothe a sore throat. Teas also contain antioxidants that may fight infection and strengthen your immune system. There are also a lot of reasons to believe in mom’s old home-remedy, chicken soup. This nutritional meal is easy to swallow and the sodium in the broth may contain anti-inflammatory properties.

3. Gargle with Warm Salt Water

Gargling with warm salt water several times a day really does help, according to studies by the Mayo Clinic and other medical organizations. The warm salt water can reduce throat swelling, loosen mucus and help flush out irritants. Remember: spit out the water after you gargle. Do not swallow it.

4. Cold Liquids and Popsicles

Warm salt water and hot tea help your throat, but so do cold liquids, ice chips and popsicles. Popsicles are especially helpful for young children - the cold acts as a temporary numbing agent to ease the discomfort. Over-the-counter throat sprays and pain relievers can also help with pain control.

5. Rest

It may not be the easiest treatment to fit into your schedule, but if an infection caused your sore throat, you need rest in order to fight the cause of your sore throat. Also, use a humidifier or vaporizer when you sleep so that the air and your throat do not get too dry.

6. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin)

If the above are not helping to resolve your symptoms, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be taken to give more relief and are available over the counter. They also relieve other viral symptoms such as fever, body aches, and headache. Be sure to follow the instructions listed on the label.

If none of these tactics help soothe your throat’s soreness and it has lasted for several days, see a physician. Many things can cause a sore throat including allergies, air pollution, muscle strain, second-hand smoke, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and other irritants. However, some sore throats are caused by bacterial infections such as strep throat. A physician can take a throat swab to confirm this and prescribe an antibiotic, if appropriate. Antibiotics are usually only prescribed for a bacterial infection, such as strep throat.

Patient First can do an evaluation and order a strep test if indicated. If your strep test is positive, you can even pick up your prescription on-site during your visit. To learn more about strep throat, please visit our strep throat page here.

Often, the best way to handle a sore throat when it is not strep throat is to treat the symptoms and avoid illnesses in general. Try to stay away from people with colds or other contagious diseases, and wash your hands often to fight the germs that cause these infections.

For more information on sore throats, visit the CDC's website.

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