When you have a sore throat, the last thing you probably want to think about is swallowing anything. But warm fluids like soups can be soothing and can help ease your symptoms faster. The trick is to be strategic about what you're sipping.
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"Sore throats can be due to infectious or non-infectious causes," Dr. Sonya Chawla, MD, a Maryland-based internist, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "Viruses that target the respiratory tract are the most common infectious cause of sore throats. The next most common cause of sore throats is bacterial infections, such as strep throat. But that's not the most common cause of a sore throat in general. Common non-infectious causes of sore throats are allergies, sinus inflammation, acid reflux or exposure to tobacco smoke."
Read more: Is Cold or Hot Better for a Sore Throat?
How to Choose the Best Soup for a Sore Throat
No matter what's causing your sore throat, you want relief and fast. "Hot soup is a good remedy for sore throat," Chawla says. "It's not only soothing to the aching throat but also provides hydration, which is important during illness." Choosing the right kind of soup is key, however.
"Avoid soups that are salty, spicy or have rough-textured ingredients," she notes. "Be careful with canned soup, which can be loaded with salt and that can be dehydrating. Anything spicy can be very irritating, and soup with rough textures, like undercooked vegetables, will hurt your already irritated throat." Tomato-based soups are acidic and also may irritate your throat.
Instead, look for low-sodium packaged broths and soups, especially mild-tasting ones with soft ingredients, like well-cooked chicken and vegetables. Registered dietitian Sydney Greene, RD, recommends "soups containing garlic, onions, ginger and turmeric, as they have anti-inflammatory benefits." You can add any of these, plus other simple ingredients such as instant rice or frozen vegetables, to a packaged broth to make yourself a soothing soup that can give you some relief and nutrients without much effort.
Other Foods for a Sore Throat
If you're not in the mood for soup, there are other good options. "Frozen foods like ice and popsicles can help numb the throat while also providing hydration," Chawla says. "And herbal tea with honey is the perfect treatment. Honey helps coat the mucous membrane on the back of the throat, which can provide relief." Plus, herbal teas usually don't contain caffeine, which can dehydrate you, she adds. "Keeping hydrated is very important since it will allow your body to recover much more quickly."
In rare cases, a sore throat may be the sign of a serious medical condition. If symptoms persist for more than a few days, see your doctor.