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How To Use A Salt Water Gargle For A Sore Throat

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Sore throats can be very unpleasant. Your throat may feel scratchy or dry, and it may even hurt to swallow. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that viral infections — such as colds or the flu — are common culprits of sore throats. Other causes include strep throat, allergies and smoking. Within a week, most sore throats will get better on their own, but home remedies, such as a salt water gargle for a sore throat, can help you feel better in the meantime.

Why Does Gargling Salt Water Help?

Gargling with warm salt water is a widely recommended home remedy, but before you try it, you may be wondering how it works. The Mayo Clinic notes that warm liquids can help to ease the discomfort associated with a sore throat. Penn Medicine explains that salt water can help to kill bacteria, ease pain and loosen mucus, making it especially helpful in relieving your symptoms.

How to Use a Sore Throat Gargle

To make a salt water solution, you'll need just two things: salt and warm water. It's important that the water is warm, as this helps the salt dissolve. The Mayo Clinic recommends adding 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of table salt to 8 ounces of warm water.

Gargling with salt water is a simple home remedy. Here's how to try this method:

  1. Create a salt water solution
  2. Gargle the solution
  3. Spit out the solution — don't swallow it
  4. Repeat as necessary to relieve your sore throat

While gargling with salt water can help to relieve a scratchy or painful throat, this method isn't right for everyone. As the Mayo Clinic explains, children younger than 6 years old can't usually gargle properly. For this reason, gargling isn't recommended for young children.

Other Helpful Sore Throat Remedies

There are many helpful home remedies out there. In addition to a salt water gargle for a sore throat, the Mayo Clinic shares several other tips to reduce your discomfort:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink fluids to keep your throat moist
  • Sip warm liquids, such as tea or broth
  • Suck on ice pops
  • Use sugar-free lozenges or hard candies
  • Avoid cigarette smoke and other irritants

Home remedies aren't always enough to heal a sore throat, however. The CDC recommends seeing a doctor if you have symptoms of strep throat, such as a fever, pain when swallowing or red, swollen tonsils. You should also see a doctor if you have bloody saliva, difficulty swallowing or breathing, joint pain or any other symptoms that concern you.

Oral Hygiene With a Sore Throat

It's easy to let your oral hygiene routine lapse when your throat feels dry, scratchy and sore. However, to keep your mouth healthy, it's important to brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day.

Once you're feeling better, you may wonder if you need to replace your toothbrush. The American Dental Association notes that there's a very low chance of getting reinfected from your own toothbrush, but for peace of mind, you may choose to replace it. If you've had the toothbrush for three or four months, it's definitely time for a new one.

When you're suffering from a dry, scratchy throat, home remedies may help to keep you comfortable. A salt water gargle for a sore throat can provide some relief, as can other easy home remedies. If you're concerned about your sore throat, see your doctor for advice on how to best tackle the problem.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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