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Throat Lozenges/Hard Candy
There are a variety of throat lozenges available over-the-counter to treat sore throat symptoms and dryness of the mouth. Research has not shown these to be any more or less effective than other options available. Hard candy is a less-expensive option.
Throat lozenges and hard candy are not recommended for children under the age of four because of the choking hazard.
Throat Sprays
Other widely available products are throat sprays that contain an anesthetic. These do not appear to be any more effective than sucking on hard candy.
Over-the-counter decongestants do not directly treat a sore throat. However, because they can help dry up a runny nose and postnasal drip (which is often the cause of the sore throat), they may provide some relief. Common decongestants include pseudoephedrine (Sudafed®), phenylephrine (Sudafed PE®), and various decongestant nasal sprays.
Decongestant nasal sprays should not be used for more than 72 hours, as longer use increases the risk of causing rebound congestion (leading to the well-known nasal spray "addiction"). Also, you should check with your healthcare provider before taking a decongestant if you have any of the following conditions:
Natural Remedies
Go into a natural food store or supplement store and you will see as many choices for treating a sore throat as in a regular drugstore.
Some natural remedies are thought to work by providing a soothing coat to the throat. Such products include honey, pectin, and slippery elm. All three of these natural products are found in many different commercially available throat lozenges. Also, "recipes" for various honey remedies (frequently combined with lemon and/or tea) abound. The research is fairly limited regarding the effectiveness of these natural products for treating a sore throat.
An apple cider vinegar gargle (with or without honey) has been recommended, but it is hard to imagine that vinegar (which is an acid) would be soothing.
(Click Natural Relief for a Sore Throat for more information.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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