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Warm Salt Water for a Sore Throat

By Julie Hampton ; Updated August 14, 2017

A sore throat can be caused by a variety of conditions such as an acute respiratory tract infection, a virus or a bacterial infection. Smoking, dry air, allergies and pollution can also contribute to a sore throat. Soreness in the throat can affect your quality of life by making speaking and swallowing painful. Warm salt water is an inexpensive and quick way to help ease and treat a sore throat. (Ref#1: CDC)

How it Helps

Salt water helps flush out the throat and wash away any germs, mucus or irritants that contribute to a sore throat. Salt also helps to draw moisture from bacteria and the swollen tissues of your throat, which can help ease the inflammation and pain associated with a sore throat. In addition, salt destroys bacteria and keeps it from flourishing in the throat. (Ref#6: Personal PSU & Ref#7: Health SYR) According to a 2005 study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, gargling three times a day with salt water can even help prevent upper respiratory tract infections that can cause sore throats. (Ref#5: NCBI)

Gargle Away

Place one teaspoon of salt in an eight ounce glass of water. Use warm water, which is more soothing on your throat and allows the salt to dissolve easier. Wait for the salt to completely dissolve -- use a spoon to stir the mixture if needed. (Ref#3: Philly) Gargle with the salt water for a few seconds and then spit the salt water out. (Ref#6: Personal PSU) For best results, the U.S. National Library of Medicine recommends gargling several times a day. (Ref#4: NLM)

Tips and Tricks

Pour out any unused salt water after you gargle with it. Because bacteria can contaminate salt water that is left out, you should always make a new batch of salt water when you need it again. Always spit out the salt water when you are finished gargling. Never swallow the salt water which can lead to dehydration. To ease throat pain even faster, mix 1 tablespoon of mouthwash into your salt water before gargling with it. (Ref#2: RD)

Warning Bells

See your doctor if your sore throat lingers for more than one week or worsens despite gargling with salt water. In addition, seek medical attention if your sore throat reoccurs or is accompanied by a rash, difficulty swallowing, a hoarse throat, problems breathing, blood in your saliva or pus on the back of your throat. These could be symptoms of a more serious illness such as strep throat. (Ref#1: CDC)

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