A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Soothe sore throats with remedies that work

Woman wrapped in a blanket drinking tea

Old wives’ tales – like hot toddies and honey – may make a sore throat feel better, but do they actually work?

Hot or cold? Honey? What about that hot toddy recipe great-grandma gave me?

These suggestions may make an irritating sore throat feel better, but do they work?

Dr. Kate Patterson, a family medicine specialist breaks down these tips and wives’ tales and provides her advice for sore throat remedies.

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Is hot or cold better?

Between hot or cold remedies, there’s no strong difference, Patterson said. Whichever method your child finds more soothing, that’s what you should use.

“With kids, you might try ice cream or popsicles,” she said. “Of course, they’re going to like the treat, but these foods can also numb the throat.”

But that hot toddy sure sounds tempting

Don’t be tempted. Alcohol doesn’t have any ingredients that directly help with sore throats, Patterson said.

“I’m not in favor of using remedies that include alcohol,” she said. “This is especially true for children. You can’t be certain how much you’re dosing.”

Instead, try this ginger tea recipe for a warm, non-alcoholic drink.

Honey can soothe

Because it coats the throat, honey is a helpful and comforting remedy.

However, be cautious about giving honey to your kids.

Patterson said honey should not be given to children under age 2 because of concerns about it causing botulism, a type of food poisoning.

Other remedies to consider

Over-the-counter throat lozenges with benzocaine or menthol can help. Benzocaine numbs the throat and back of the tongue.

“If your child doesn’t like the medicated lozenges, try any hard candy,” she said. “These can help, too.” Only use throat lozenges or candy if your child is old enough to safely suck on them without risk of choking.

Gargle salt water and keep a glass at bedside to moisten the throat at night. Patterson recommends ¼ – ½ teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of water.

Keep your throat moist by drinking six or more glasses of clear liquids each day. Ice chips also can help.

Concerned you might have strep? Your answers to these questions can help determine if you have a sore throat, strep throat or something else.

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