How To Soothe A Sore Throat

In this article, we discuss the best and most effective options for soothing a sore throat.


How do I soothe a sore throat?

Asked by Mildred On Nov 04, 2017

Answered by
Medical Content Reviewed By PharmacistAnswers Staff

On Nov 05, 2017

A sore throat can happen for an variety of reasons. The most common causes include infection, local irritation or it could simply be a symptom of a cold. Regardless of cause, relief is what we are looking for. Many commonly recommended home therapies do not work and can be harmful. Gargling with salt water for example, can provide temporary relief but often ends up having an overall drying effect, making symptoms worse.

Below, we discuss a number of effective options that can best soothe a sore throat.

Cough Drops

Not all cough drops are created equal. Most contain a single ingredient, menthol. Menthol can provide minor pain relief and creates a cooling sensation. Many times however, menthol alone is not enough. In more moderate to severe cases of a sore throat, a cough drop with an added anesthetic may be more beneficial.

Cepacol & Other Anesthetic Products

Cepacol Cough

While there are many different formulations of Cepacol, most contain the topical anesthetic benzocaine. You may have seen benzocaine in medications for tooth pain as well (such as Anbesol). Benzocaine works as a mild, topical numbing agent and can greatly reduce the pain and irritation from a sore throat much effectively than menthol alone. Other cough drops than contain benzocaine included Chloraseptic and Sucrets.

In addition, many different cough drop products also contain added herbs or even a cough suppressant like dextromethorphan. Don't give up on cough drops if they haven't worked in the past, you may not have used the right product.

Extra Strength Menthol Products

Fisherman Friend Strong Menthol

If you are looking to stay away from anesthetics like benzocaine, you may find relief in using an extra strength menthol product, which typically contain menthol in amounts of 10 mg or more. One of the most popular products in the category is Fisherman's Friend. In addition to 10 mg of menthol, it also contains other soothing ingredients such as eucalyptus oil.

Natural Therapies

Slippery Elm

Slippery ElmIn terms of natural therapies, slippery elm has some of the most evidence for benefiting a sore throat. Studies show that Slipperly Elm has a strong 'demulcent' effect. A demulcent is a substance that relieves irritation of mucous membranes (such as in the throat) with a protective coating. Slippery Elm is thought to release this protective substance, temporarily reliving the symptoms of a sore and scratchy throat.

There are a variety of product available that contain Slippery Elm such as capsules, liquids and teas. You may see Slippery Elm products referred to as 'Throat Coat'. 



Humidifiers and cool mist vaporizers can be extremely effective in helping to relieve a sore throat, especially in the evening when symptoms tend to become worse. Humidifies increase the amount of moisture in the air, which in turn helps to treat dry, irritated throats. Many humidifies have options to add inhalants such as menthol, or aromatherapy oils which can further alleviate symptoms.

Humidifiers are available as warm air or cool air machines. Be careful regarding accidental burns with warm air humidifiers. Cool air humidifiers tend to be safer but can have a higher chance of spreading bacteria or mold and minerals in the air. It is important to keep the unit clean and use distilled water to avoid mineral buildup.



Honey is probably the simplest remedy of all, and there is evidence that it works! The antioxidant properties of honey may have a role in reducing irritation. In addition, it is thought that the sweetness of honey naturally causes salivation and may also induce secretion of airway mucus. The viscous nature of honey allows it to work for a longer period of time than simply sugar water. Somewhat surprisingly, limited data suggests that ingestion of sweets actually can induce a response similar to opioid drugs, producing an anti-tussive effect.

As shown above, there are countless remedies to soothe a sore throat. If one doesn't work, try another of our recommendations or even combine therapies. If symptoms don't seem to improve after a few days, speak with your doctor regarding some alternative therapy options.

About the Pharmacist

Dr. Brian Staiger Pharm.D

Dr. Brian Staiger is a licensed pharmacist in New York State and the founder of He graduated from the University At Buffalo with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree in 2010. He has been featured in numerous publications including the Huffington Post as well as a variety of health and pharmacy-related blogs. Please feel free to reach out to him directly if you have any inquiries or want to connect! He's answered thousands of medication and pharmacy-related questions and he's ready to answer yours! Office: 716-389-3076

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