Sore Throat? Here's What to Do

You can soothe a sore throat as follows: 

  • Drink liquids, at least 64 ounces (8 cups or 2 liters) per day to stay hydrated, to thin mucus, and to keep your throat moist. It's very important to stay hydrated, even though it hurts. Drink water, tea (herbal or decaf), broth, soup, and non-caffeinated sports drinks e.g. Gatorade. Hot tea with lemon and honey can help.
  • Gargle with warm salt-water. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of regular table salt in 8 ounces (240 ml) of warm water, gargle for a few seconds, spit it out, then repeat a few times. Do this three times a day. Wondering if gargling really works? Read this brief New York Times article about a research study on the effectiveness of gargling.
  • To relieve pain and reduce inflammation, take ibuprofen (e.g. Motrin, Advil), acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or generic versions of these medicines, following package directions.
  • Keep your throat moist by using a vaporizer or sucking on throat lozenges, ice or popcicles. Some lozenges also help relieve pain. 
  • Refrain from smoking. Smoking makes it hard to eliminate mucus and may predispose you to bronchitis or pneumonia. This would be a good time to consider quitting -- See Tobacco Cessation Help. If you choose not to quit, try not to smoke during your illness.

Call for advice if you have any of these:

  • Difficulty swallowing that prevents you from eating or drinking, or if you are drooling and cannot swallow your saliva, you should seek medical care right away
  • White or yellow spots in throat
  • Pain that is persistent, severe or increasing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A new rash or fever
  • Signs of dehydration

For U-M students and other UHS patients, call for Nurse Advice by Phone, day or night. Calling may save you a trip. 

UHS can do rapid strep testing. Your throat and tonsils would be swabbed to collect a sample, which would be analyzed for strep (streptococcal) bacteria. Results would be available at your visit.

For currently enrolled U-M students on the Ann Arbor campus, there is no fee for phone advice, clinic visits or most laboratory tests.

For more information: