December 10th, 2006
If you're reading this, it's probably because you're sick, laying in bed, bored, fatigued, and wondering why snot tastes salty—and getting rid of a sore throat is something you've had time to think about while you stare at the ceiling wondering when your loved ones are going to come home from work. If you haven't gone to the doctor yet, here are some symptoms you might want to pay attention to: muscle pain, fatigue, fevers, and headaches, even hiccups. If you have any of those symptoms, then you probably want to work on getting rid of the flu as well.
Additionally, if you've had your sore throat for more than seven days, chances are you have Strep throat, tonsillitis, or some other bacterial infection that will require antibiotics. Another cause of your sore throat might be allergies, or your excessive smoking. The solutions to those two problems are obvious: take allergy medication or quit smoking. If, however, you just want to know how to get rid of a sore throat, we have some solutions.
Treating a Sore Throat
See a doctor if your sore throat lasts longer than 5 days. If you can't identify an allergen that could be causing your sore throat, then it's time to see a doctor. Usually, sore throats that last 5 days or longer are caused by a bacterial infection like Strep throat or tonsillitis. If one of these bacterium (or another) are found in a throat culture, then your doctor will most often prescribe penicillin, or another antibiotic if you're allergic to that.
Drinking a lot of fluids will help you get rid of a sore throat. Sore throats are most often caused by post-nasal drip (doctor lingo for "snot sliding down your throat") which is the result of a cold or the flu. Drinking fluids when you have a sore throat does two things: first, it helps to hydrate your body, and second, it helps keep post-nasal drip from building up and keeps the irritated linings of your throat coated with moisture. Mild and soothing drinks like warm tea are recommended.
Installing a humidifier in your room will help you get rid of a sore throat. The snot running down your throat (post-nasal drip) when you are sick isn't good for your sore throat. It tends to irritate your throat, leaving it raw and feeling quite dry. A humidifier in your room will help add moisture to the air, and moist air is less irritating to a sore throat. Steam vaporizers are recommended if you want to add a medicated inhalant to the water.
Gargling warm salt water can help relieve a sore throat. The swelling and subsequent in your throat, called edema, is caused by a greater water concentration in the cells lining your throat. A light mixture (1 teaspoon of salt per glass) of salt and water gargled for thirty seconds, several times a day will help draw some of that extra water out and reduce the swelling that accompanies a sore throat. Be careful; too much salt will harm your already beleaguered mucus glands.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Panadol, Paracetemol) or Ibuprofen (Advil & Motrin) are the only pain medications you should be taking if you have a sore throat. Because sore throats often accompany the flu, it's important that you do not take Aspirin to relieve the pain—just in case. Taking aspirin when you have the flu can cause Reyes syndrome in children (excessive pressure in the brain), and that, my friends, is a very bad thing. Watch out for Ibuprofen as well, NSAIDs like Ibuprofen have been associated with the development of gastric and peptic ulcers. Stick to the Tylenol Cold & Flu.
Humidifiers and Sore Throats
A humidifier can be a great way to help ease the pain of a sore throat, but there are some things to think about when picking out a humidifier. Steam vaporizers are great because the chances of bacteria and minerals accumulating and being dispersed by them are low. The downsides to a steam vaporizer are that children can get burned if they get curious about the machinations of the humidifier and the energy required to run a steam vaporizer is higher than other humidifiers. Ultrasonic humidifiers are good because they don't use as much energy, but the chances of bacteria and minerals (referred to as "white dust") being dispersed are higher. Evaporative humidifiers suffer from the same problems as ultrasonic humidifiers, so it's important to make sure you clean your humidifier often and change the filters as instructed.