Soothe your sore throat with these foods and drinks

That feeling of a scratchy throat is never fun, whether you have a kid complaining about their throat or you feel it yourself. You start to wonder if you’re getting sick, and then you’re coping with the pain from a sore throat.

Fortunately, there are some foods and drinks that can help ease sore throat pain.

“You don’t need to suffer,” says Dr. Sarah Nosal, a family medicine physician and a member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

[See: Common Childhood Respiratory Diseases.]

Sore Throat Causes

Sore throat, also called pharyngitis, can have many causes, but a viral infection is behind many of them, Nosal says.

Here are several causes for a sore throat, including some of the virus-associated causes:

COVID-19. A sore throat is a common symptom associated with COVID. If you have sore throat pain, take a COVID test and stay home while you’re testing positive to help reduce spreading the infection to others, Nosal recommends.

A bacterial infection, although this is less common than a viral infection.

Strep throat, which is more common among children and teens than adults. Strep throat is associated with Group A beta-hemolytic Streptococcus bacteria and requires antibiotic treatment. Strep can occur in adults but is less common because of exposure and immunity to the bacteria that cause it over time.

Allergies can cause post-nasal drip (mucus that gathers in the throat) and sore throat, says Dr. Evelyn Darius, a family medicine physician with the virtual health platform PlushCare.

Hot or dry air.

Mononucleosis, also referred to as mono, is a viral infection most common in teens and young adults.

Air pollution.

Exposure to tobacco smoke.

Flu or cold viruses.

Sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia or gonorrhea of the throat.

General anesthesia, which can irritate the throat afterward a medical procedure.

With a viral infection, there are no antibiotics that can treat it because antibiotics only work for bacterial infections. You have to let the infection run its course, but certain medications and food remedies can help manage your symptoms.

[See: 9 Myths and Misconceptions About the Flu Vaccine.]

Foods to Eat and Drink to Relieve Your Sore Throat

If you have a sore throat, try to rest and stay hydrated. There are certain foods and drinks you can use to try and cope with your sore throat pain. They include:

— Popsicles.

— Soup or broth.

— Warm salt water.

— Teas.

— Ginger, lemon and honey.

— Milk.

Some people find that warm liquids soothe their sore throats best. Others like the shock of cold items to seemingly numb their sore throat pain. Whichever you prefer, stick with soft items that are easy to swallow when you have a sore throat. This may include:


— Mashed potatoes.

— Oatmeal.

— Scrambled eggs.



The special treat of a popsicle for a sore throat will put a smile on your kid’s face, and the cold feeling of the popsicle can help relieve any pain. Of course, you can treat yourself to a popsicle if you’re the one with a sore throat.

Soup or broth

Chicken soup, anyone? Soup and broth have a few benefits when you have a sore throat.

The heat of the soup, or broth, can help your throat feel better and help hydrate you, Darius says. The warmth of them can loosen any mucus in your throat, so it’s easier for you to swallow. Plus, soup and broth have nutrients that can help your body recover — like vitamin C, which supports the immune system.

Warm salt water

The home remedy of gargling with warm salt water for a sore throat has been around for a while — for a good reason. It works by breaking down phlegm and draining water from the swollen tissues around the throat. That reduces inflammation, Darius says.

It also can help break up mucus in your throat and rinse away any irritants, Nosal says. Use one teaspoon of salt stirred into a glass of warm water. Gargle, and spit it out. You can use this several times a day while you have a sore throat.


Warm or hot tea can feel oh-so-good on a sore throat. Some teas are more effective than others for a sore throat, including those with:

Chamomile. It has flavonoids, which are naturally occurring compounds in plants, to lower inflammation and promote healing, Darius says.

Mint. Mint has menthol which can have a cooling effect and increase blood flow to the area to help with healing. Menthol can help with pain relief.

Ginger, lemon and honey

Ginger, lemon and honey work as a powerful combination to soothe a sore throat. Ginger has a natural compound called gingerol that can fight inflammation and help with pain.

Lemons have vitamin C and ascorbic acid that can help break down mucus. “The acidic nature of lemon juice also provides an inhospitable environment for bacteria and viruses, helping to clear the infection,” Darius says.

Honey can coat the throat and help it feel better. Just avoid giving honey to those under a year old due to the risk of botulism, an uncommon but serious illness that affects the body’s nerves.


Milk is often maligned for a sore throat because there’s the perception that it increases the production of yucky phlegm. A 2019 review in the Archives of Disease in Childhood did not find a connection between milk and phlegm production.

Still, some people may think they feel more phlegm because when milk and saliva mix, it can create a thicker liquid that may coat your throat and mouth, says Amy Kimberlain, a registered dietitian based in Miami and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Yet milk can provide vitamin D and calcium. Bottom line: If you want milk while your throat is hurting, then go for it, as long as you’re not sensitive or allergic to dairy products.

An Overall Healthy Diet

Aiming to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, as well as other healthy foods, while sick (as best as you can tolerate) will help your body recover more quickly, Kimberlain says.

Nutrients that can support your immune system include:

— Beta carotene, which is found in spinach, mango and tomatoes.

— Vitamin C in berries, tomatoes and peppers.

— Vitamin D in fatty fish, eggs and milk.

Zinc, which is best absorbed in meat products, like beef and seafood, but also found in beans, nuts and tofu.

Probiotics, which are gut-healthy microorganisms found in yogurt and fermented foods, like kimchi and tempeh.

Protein, found in many food sources including beans, eggs, chicken and seafood.

[See: Signs of a Cold You Shouldn’t Ignore.]

Foods and Drinks to Avoid When You Have a Sore Throat

There are some foods and drinks that are better to avoid when you have a sore throat. Those include:

— Crackers, or anything else that’s hard to swallow.

— Citrus fruits (except for lemon combined with other things) as their acids may hurt your throat.

— Spicy foods, which may similarly irritate your throat.

Other Ways to Relieve a Sore Throat

In addition to soothing foods and drinks, there are some over-the-counter medications that you can use for a sore throat, such as:

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

Sore throat lozenges, although keep in mind you’ll have to take them as often as every two hours. Look for ingredients like menthol, benzocaine or eucalyptus oil, Darius advises. Lozenges also help by increasing the production of saliva in the mouth, which can lubricate the throat and help with pain.

Throat sprays with ingredients like benzocaine, which can help numb the pain.

Decongestants to help get rid of congestion and improve breathing. Avoid decongestants if you have heart problems or high blood pressure.

Antihistamines, which may help if your throat is irritated due to allergies.

Saline nasal spray to help moisturize and soothe your nasal passages.

Always read labels and check with a health care provider before using over-the-counter medicines in children, to make sure they are age-appropriate.

When to See a Health Care Provider for a Sore Throat

Most of the time, a sore throat will go away after a couple of days without needing further treatment. See a provider if your sore throat is accompanied by any of the following:

— Trouble breathing and shortness of breath. Any time there’s trouble breathing, it should be checked out quickly.

— Sore throat pain that doesn’t get better with over-the-counter pain relievers or over a couple of days. This could take more detective work to figure out the cause, which may be something other than a routine cold.

— Severe trouble swallowing or drooling, which may indicate an abscess (a collection of pus in the body).

— A high-pitched sound when breathing in, also called stridor. This may indicate an obstruction to the body’s airway, Darius says.

— A stiff neck or an inability to bend the neck, because this is another potential sign of an abscess, according to Darius.

— Worsening swelling on one side of the throat. This could be another sign of an abscess or a more severe infection.

— A change in voice quality, which Darius describes as speaking like you’ve got a hot potato in your mouth. This is another sign of an abscess or other dangerous complications.

— In children and teens, a sore throat along with a fever higher than 100.4, swollen lymph nodes and no cough. These may indicate strep throat.

If you’re not sure if you should see a provider when you or a loved one have a sore throat, call the provider’s office to ask for guidance.

Some Final Reminders When You Have a Sore Throat

Here are some final helpful reminders for when you have a sore throat:

— Wash your hands frequently.

— Don’t share your food, drinks or utensils, Kimberlain cautions.

— When you sneeze or cough, use a tissue. Wash your hands afterwards.

— Frequently clean items that you’re using a lot, such as remote controls, phones and keyboards.

— Get lots of rest.

— Don’t smoke, and ask others around you not to smoke when you’re sick.

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