What Helps a Scratchy Throat?

Scratchy throats can be hard to treat because they are difficult to get to.
Scratchy throats can be hard to treat because they are difficult to get to. (Image: Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images)

Scratchy throats are throats that feel itchy and sore. Sometimes it is also hard to swallow. They can be caused by any number of things, including viral infection, allergies and vocal abuse, such as long periods of singing or yelling. Scratchy throats will typically go away once the underlying condition has been treated. In the meantime, several options are available to soothe the throat.

Hot Tea

Hot drinks, like tea, can be very soothing to the throat. The heat increases blood flow and improves circulation to the area, which may allow it to heal more quickly. Herbal tea, like chamomile, can help you feel more relaxed, which may lessen the symptoms. Pain increases when the body is tense and stressed. Likewise, it decreases if the body is loose and relaxed. Adding soothing substances like honey or lemon juice to the tea will provide double the benefit. Honey coats the throat, protecting it from outside irritants, while lemon stimulates the production of saliva, which makes swallowing easier.


Certain herbs, like lavender, echinacea and slippery Elm, can reduce the pain, swelling and itchiness associated with scratchy throats. Echinacea can also reduce the amount of time you have a scratchy throat, if it is caused by a cold virus. According to an evidence-based clinical review published in the August 1999 issue of "The Journal of Family Practice," echinacea produced positive results in terms of reducing the duration and severity of upper respiratory infections in eight out of nine clinical trials.

Salt Water Gargle

Gargling with the salt water solution is one of the most effective ways of temporarily reducing symptoms of a scratchy throat, according to the University of Pittsburgh. The saltwater gargle reduces tissue inflammation and removes irritants coating the throat. It's generally advised to mix 1/2 tsp. of salt with 8 oz. of warm water and gargle once every three to four hours.

Over-the-Counter Medications

Acetaminophen and ibuprofen, over-the-counter pain relievers, are sometimes effective at soothing throat pain. Acetaminophen works by increasing the body's overall pain threshold. Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory drug, which gets rid of inflammation within the tissues. While acetaminophen and ibuprofen are generally safe, acetaminophen can be problematic for those with liver problems and ibuprofen can cause or worsen ulcers and gastrointestinal symptoms. People with these problems, or any coexisting medical problem, should check with their doctors before using these drugs.

Other Measures

Taking extra care of your body when you have a scratchy throat is important to efficient recovery. Taking in extra fluids makes it easier for your body to function, which means it can pay more attention to repairing the damage done to your throat. It will also prevent congestion and mucus formation. Resting frequently is important to the recovery process as well. The body repairs itself best when at rest because it is able to focus more attention on what's wrong with it, as opposed to dealing with balancing energy expenditure and facilitating digestion. Vocal rest is important as well, especially for those who have a scratchy throat due to vocal abuse. Talking too much can further irritate or damage the throat.

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