Is Cold or Hot Better for a Sore Throat?

At some point in your life, you've no doubt suffered from a sore throat. That scratchy, dry or painful sensation is often extremely uncomfortable and can make it difficult for you to swallow, but it's rarely a cause for alarm. Most of the time, simple self-care measures go a long way in easing your discomfort. However, you may be wondering whether hot or cold is better for this condition. Fortunately, both have their merits.

Hot Fluids

According to the American Osteopathic Association, hot fluids are by far the most beneficial. Not only do they help soothe your sore throat, but they're also known to loosen mucus, which may help relieve other symptoms such as congestion and stuffiness, often accompanying a sore throat, so consider eating soup or drinking hot water to alleviate the pain.

Cold Treats

The benefit of hot fluids doesn't necessarily mean that cold isn't useful in relieving the discomfort associated with a sore throat. MayoClinic.com recommends eating cold treats to ease pain. The cold from ice pops, ice cream or even ice chips can help lessen the inflammation and irritation affecting your pharynx, which is the section of your throat just behind your mouth and nasal cavity.

Development

Though a number of factors can lead to a sore throat, the American Medical Association asserts that the most common cause is a viral infection. Viruses linked to the common cold, flu or mono are the biggest culprits of this condition. In this situation, you should see an improvement in your condition anywhere between five and seven days. With viruses, using a combination of hot or cold should help to ease your discomfort.

Other Factors

Besides viruses, other pathogens, irritants and allergens may also lead to a sore throat, notes the American Academy of Family Physicians. Bacterial infections associated with strep throat, diphtheria and whooping cough can all result in pain along the pharynx. Tobacco smoke, air pollution and airborne chemicals are all irritants known to contribute to a sore throat. Even pollen, pet dander and other allergens can irritate and inflame the throat, leading to soreness.

Treatment

Even if you use hot or cold to help ease your discomfort, you may need medical intervention, especially when a sore throat is linked to bacteria. Antibiotics taken by mouth are the standard form of treatment. Most of the time, you'll only need to take the prescription for 10 days to improve your condition. However, always follow your doctor's orders in treating any condition associated with a sore throat.

Expert Insight

MayoClinic.com recommends talking to a doctor when a sore throat occurs in children, especially when they have a difficulty breathing or swallowing. Adults should seek medical attention when a sore throat lasts longer than a week or is accompanied by difficulty breathing or swallowing as well as a fever, joint pain, a rash or an earache.

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