Will a Saltwater Gargle Help Soothe Your Sore Throat?

Now that it’s officially fall, cold and flu season is upon us. It’s too bad pumpkin spice isn’t an effective prevention, because you can hardly walk ten paces without bumping into something edible and pumpkin-flavored. Unfortunately, people in Topeka are going to get sick, and one of those primary symptoms is likely to be a sore throat. Age-old wisdom stipulates that gargling with saltwater will help soothe discomfort and speed up the healing process, but is there any truth to this popular remedy?

Mom Was Right. Well, Kind Of.

salt shaker

What causes a sore throat?

Most sore throats are caused by a virus, usually the common cold or flu, and will run their course in a few days. But the pain that accompanies a sore throat is anything but pleasant, so reducing discomfort is a priority.

Mothers everywhere have been recommending gargling with saltwater for about as long as sore throats have plagued their kids.

Can saltwater help a sore throat?

It turns out that there is some science to back up this claim. Saltwater doesn’t actually cure a sore throat, but it’s got important properties that help alleviate pain and discomfort.

It’s hypertonic, meaning the osmotic pressure in saltwater is higher than the surrounding fluid in your cells; submerging the cells in saltwater draws liquid to the surface, as well as any virus and bacteria that are in your throat.

When you spit it out, you are likely to get rid of some of these germs along with the saltwater.

Additionally, moisture on the surface of the throat acts as a lubricant and helps relieve some of the pain.

How much salt do you need?

You’ll have to pay attention to the ratio in order to come up with an effective solution.

A little bit of salt won’t do; in order to make the water hypertonic, you’ll need to dissolve at least a quarter teaspoon of salt in half a cup of warm water. The heat will help dissolve the salt and increase blood flow in your throat, giving your immune system a boost.

Any kind of salt will work, but smaller granules are best because they will dissolve faster and more easily.

How often should you use a salt water rinse?

If the idea of a saltwater gargle makes you queasy, you might be tempted to do it just once. Unfortunately, you have to keep up the routine in order to ensure it works. If a sore throat persists, you may need a visit to an ENT to rule out tonsilitis and other conditions.

Your Topeka ENT specialist recommends gargling with saltwater two to four times a day, depending on the severity of your symptoms. You should begin to feel better after 24 hours.

Be sure to drink plenty of regular water so the salt doesn’t dry out the rest of your cells.

Can you use something other than salt water?

Gargling with saltwater isn’t for everybody. People with high blood pressure should refrain; instead, they should try other home remedies to help moisten the throat. Chicken soup is another favorite of moms, and it too has been shown to work. Plus, it contains other nutrients that help fight infection.

Other natural remedies include a spoonful of honey, using a humidifier, drinking lots of water and other fluids to stay hydrated, and avoiding cigarette smoke.

When should you go into the doctor for a sore throat?

Sore throats that persist longer than a few days or are accompanied by other symptoms should be evaluated by a physician.

If you have tried a saltwater gargle or other natural remedy and your symptoms haven’t improved within a week, make an appointment with an ear, nose and throat doctor in Topeka to rule out anything more serious.

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