A severe sore throat is bad enough, but one that comes with blisters can be particularly painful. Between 85 and 95 percent of sore throats are caused by viruses, but throat blisters can have a number of different causes, from common upper respiratory infections such as cold and flu to the oral herpes virus. Most cases of throat blisters go away on their own, and while you usually can’t shorten the illness that causes them, you can at least ease the pain. From home remedies to prescription meds, here are five ways to treat throat blisters.
1. Gargle Salt Water to Soothe a Sore Throat
Gargling warm salt water can help soothe a sore throat by reducing and clearing mucus that can cause coughing and make hoarseness worse. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends gargling with 1 teaspoon of salt mixed in a glass of warm water. Some people also find that gargling soothing herbal teas made from chamomile, sage or blackberry can help ease soreness.
2. Dip Into Some Honey to Soothe a Sore Throat
Honey is a time-honored folk remedy for a sore throat and may be very helpful for blistering. Honey is a natural demulcent, meaning it coats and soothes irritated tissues, whatever the cause. It also has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, both of which could help prevent a viral infection from transitioning into a secondary bacterial infection. A sore throat remedy suggested in the spring 2012 Ayurvedic medicine journal “Ayu” recommends swallowing a teaspoon of honey mixed with 2 teaspoons of lime juice every few hours; black pepper to increase circulation to the throat is optional.
3. Use Over-the-Counter Medicines to Treat a Sore Throat
Over-the-counter throat lozenges and sprays contain mild anesthetics such as benzocaine (Cepacol, Chloraseptic), dyclonine (Sucrets) and dilute phenol (Chloraseptic spray) that temporarily numb throat tissue and have been proved to actually work. Ordinary OTC pain relievers can help, too. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) may work better for throat blisters than acetaminophen (Tylenol) because of its anti-inflammatory effect.
4. Reduce Acid to Allow a Sore Throat to Heal
One possible cause of throat blisters or ulcers is severe and laryngopharyngeal reflux disease, which occurs when acid from the stomach leaks into the esophagus, sometimes making it all the way to the throat. It’s closely related to acid reflux. Avoiding all acidic foods and beverages, including soda, caffeinated drinks, citrus, tomato, vinegar and wine, for a period will allow your throat to heal. You may also benefit from acid-blocking medications called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which are sold under brand names Prevacid and Nexium. However, if you think your throat problems are caused by reflux disease, you should consult a health care provider.
5. Try Prescription Drugs for Strep Throat
Strep throat is a common bacterial infection, but is only responsible for about 10 percent of cases of sore throat and blistering. In addition to painful swallowing, strep throat may bring fever and chills, headache, stomach distress and pus on the tonsils or a bright red throat. Strep throat does respond to antibiotics, but the advantage is small, according to a November 2007 article published in “Canadian Family Physician,” a journal by the College of Family Physicians of Canada. They reduce symptoms somewhat and were found to shorten the illness by only 16 hours.
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Sore Throat
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Pharyngitis
- JAMA Pediatrics: Effect of Honey, Dextromethorphan, and No Treatment on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality for Coughing Children and Their Parents
- Ayu: Medicinal and Cosmetic Uses of Bee’s Honey – A Review
- Journal of Pharmaceutical Science: Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of a Single Dose of an Amylmetacresol/2,4-dichlorobenzyl Alcohol Plus Lidocaine Lozenge or a Hexylresorcinol Lozenge for the Treatment of Acute Sore Throat Due to Upper Respiratory Tract Infection
- Canadian Family Physician: Acute Sore Throat
- Goyal & Shaker GI Motility Online: Laryngeal and Pharyngeal Complications of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
- Diagnosis and Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease