October in Arizona doesn’t exactly scream fall yet, but despite a lack of frost on the pumpkin and bright fall foliage, it does signal the beginning of cold and flu season in Goodyear. One of the most prevalent symptoms people experience is a sore throat. You might have heard that gargling with salt water can help ease throat pain and speed up healing. The question is, does this really work?
Hey, Mom was Right!
What causes a sore throat?
The majority of sore throats are caused by viruses. That scratchy feeling in the throat is often the first symptom of a cold or flu—a sure-fire sign of impending misery. While sore throats usually run their course after a few days, the pain they cause in the interim can leave you feeling miserable. Medications aren’t always effective, but moms in Goodyear have been urging their kids to gargle with saltwater for decades…and there is actually science to back them up.
Can saltwater help a sore throat?
It’s important to note that saltwater won’t actually clear up a sore throat, but it can provide relief from the associated pain and irritation. Saltwater contains hypertonic properties; that is, the osmotic pressure (the movement of water across cell membranes) is higher than the pressure in the fluid of the surrounding cells, so the saltwater encourages movement of water from the cells. This draws liquid, as well as any virus or bacteria in the throat, to the surface.
When you spit out the water after gargling, you’ll get rid of some of the germs, too. In addition, a saltwater gargle helps moisten the surface of the throat; this acts as a lubricant and helps relieve pain.
Steps for a Successful Saltwater Gargle
A saltwater gargle is easy to make and only costs a few cents. The trick is to add enough salt to make the water hypertonic. A good recipe involves dissolving a quarter teaspoon of salt in a half cup of warm water.
Don’t use cold water; you’ll need heat to help dissolve the salt and increase blood flow in the throat. This will help strengthen your immune system. Any salt will do, but finer granules dissolve more readily, so leave the kosher salt for when you brine the turkey. Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, after all.
Gargle for a few seconds (count to five or so) and then spit out the water. It’s important to do so consistently; gargle with saltwater several times a day, depending on the severity of your symptoms. You should start to feel better in about 24 hours. Drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated and ensure the salt doesn’t dry out the rest of your cells.
When should you use a different treatment?
People should avoid gargling with saltwater if they have high blood pressure. Chicken soup is another great alternative that contains nutrients to help fight infection. Honey and ginger can also provide soothing relief; both contain disease-fighting properties, as well.
If your sore throat hasn’t disappeared after a few days, schedule an appointment with a Goodyear ENT doctor to rule out a more serious condition.