A sore throat can be caused by many things. It can occur during a cold, flu or other illness or be from exposure to some type of irritant such as pollution or cigarette smoke. Before trying any remedy for a sore throat, it is important to have the cause of the pain properly diagnosed. When the cause is not serious, drinking a mixture of water, lemon and honey may help.
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Sore throats are commonly caused by viruses, states the National Institutes of Health. When infections such as a cold affect the nasal and sinus passages, they may drain into the throat and irritate the tissues. Viruses can sometimes cause an infection in the throat as well. Allergies or other conditions that make it hard to breathe may cause a person to breathe strictly through the mouth. Over time, this can dry out the throat and cause it to become irritated. Sore throats caused by these conditions do not respond to antibiotics, but they may be helped by home remedies such as drinking a mixture of water, lemon and honey.
Sore throats can also be cause by more serious illnesses that require medical treatment. These include strep throat, tonsillitis, mononucleosis and other bacterial infections. In cases of bacterial infections, a course of antibiotics is necessary to help stop the infection from getting worse or spreading. In rare cases, a sore throat can be caused by cancer. If the pain is severe, does not respond to conservative measures within about one week or is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, headaches, stomach pain, painful swallowing, difficulty swallowing, swollen glands, fatigue or others, it is important to seek medical attention.
Because sore throats are often caused by the tissues becoming dry and irritated, keeping the throat hydrated will help moisten the throat and soothe symptoms. Staying hydrated will also help the body fight off a fever and can replace loss fluids from diarrhea and vomiting. It is important to drink water instead of alcoholic or caffeinated beverages because they can cause further dehydration. Adding honey and lemon to water can make it taste better, which may encourage a patient to drink more.
According to the Mayo Clinic, mixing honey and lemon with water for a sore throat is a time-tested remedy. Honey can help to coat the throat, and lemon can help reduce mucus. For best results, boil the water first as if making a cup of tea. Then add the honey and lemon to taste and let the water cool as they dissolve. Drink the mixture when it is still slightly warm to help relax the throat muscles or drink it cold if feeling warm because of a fever. Because this mixture only relieves symptoms temporarily, it may be necessary to repeat it throughout the day.
The best best is to try to prevent sore throats whenever possible. The Family Doctor website recommends practicing good hand washing techniques and avoiding touching the face or eyes with the hands. Sneeze or cough into the elbow to prevent getting germs on the hands. Avoiding crowded areas during cold and flu season may be necessary for those who are especially prone to sore throats. Quitting smoking and avoiding allergy triggers also help to reduce the frequency of sore throats.