When you wake up after a night of several alcoholic drinks, you might be met with a dry mouth, headache and — yes — an achy throat.
Here's why you may get a sore throat after drinking, plus how to remedy it and prevent it in the first place.
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What Causes a Sore Throat After Drinking
Dehydration is a common cause of throat pain or dryness after drinking, according to the American Addiction Centers. But the cocktails you choose, the amount you drink and even the volume of your voice are all contributing factors (more on that below).
Your immune system may even be to blame. Alcohol can impair your body's ability to defend itself against infection, hindering your recovery from injury or sickness, according to a 2015 paper in Alcohol Research.
Alcohol's damage to your immune system can make you more susceptible to illness, which is another likely cause of sore throat after drinking. Viral infections, like a cold or the flu, are actually the most common cause of an irritated throat, according to the Mayo Clinic.
With all of that in mind, here are the best ways to prevent and remedy a sore throat after drinking alcohol.
How to Prevent a Sore Throat After Drinking
1. Stay Hydrated
There's a reason you're told to drink plenty of water after having a few drinks. Alcohol has a diuretic effect, which means it increases how frequently you urinate, according to the American Addiction Centers. This is why alcohol can lead to dehydration, causing symptoms like an irritated throat, thirst, headache or dry mouth.
Dehydration of any kind (alcohol-induced, too) can cause dryness in your mouth, causing a sore throat. Often, alcohol-induced dehydration is known as a hangover, which can also cause symptoms like fatigue, headache, poor sleep or dizziness, per the Mayo Clinic.
2. Know Your Limit
When you go overboard with your alcohol, you may end up seeing your cocktails return in reverse. As you drink, your stomach lining becomes inflamed, causing irritation, nausea and potentially vomiting, according to the American Addiction Centers.
As stomach acids and alcohol come back up your esophagus, they may cause irritation and burning in the throat that can last well into the morning after. That's why knowing your own limits with alcohol is crucial to help you avoid unwanted hangover effects.
3. Avoid Darker Alcohol
A group of hangover-inducing chemicals in most alcoholic drinks are called congeners, a product of the fermentation process, according to the Mayo Clinic. Generally, dark liquors like brandy and bourbon contain higher levels of congeners, including methanol, which can worsen a hangover.
Although lighter liquors, like vodka, won't necessarily make your hangovers and inflamed throat any less severe, steering clear of dark alcohol may help.
Sore Throat After Drinking Wine?
Second only to brandy, red wine is ranked as having the highest congener content and hangover severity, according to an older March 2008 article in Alcohol and Alcoholism. So, if a dark cab happens to be your go-to beverage, you may want to stick to just one glass.
4. Limit Carbonated Beverages
Feeling a sore throat after drinking beer? The carbonation may be to blame.
Fizzy drinks — including beer, sparkling wine or mixed drinks — activate nerves in your nose and mouth that trigger feelings of burning or pain. That's why you may have a sore throat after drinking soda mixed with vodka or your favorite bubbly, according to the University of Southern California.
5. Speak Softer
In some cases, the circumstances surrounding alcohol consumption can also cause an achey throat. If you're in a bar or restaurant, speaking too loudly may cause muscle tension or voice strain, which can also lead to tightness in your throat, according to Duke University Health. Exposure to secondhand smoke may have the same effect, too.
How to Soothe a Sore Throat After Drinking Alcohol
Prevention is ideal, but if you find yourself with an achy throat after drinking, there are several natural remedies for a sore throat you can try.
1. Get Plenty of Sleep
Our bodies use sleep to recover and heal, so getting plenty of rest is the first thing to prioritize if your throat is inflamed, per the Mayo Clinic.
Keep in mind that although alcohol is technically considered a sedative, it can throw your sleep cycles out of whack, hindering your ability to get restful sleep, according to the Cleveland Clinic. So skip the "hair of the dog" if you wake up with an irritated throat and consider taking a power nap or turning in early.
2. Drink Some Hydrating Beverages
Drinking plenty of fluids can help you rehydrate and alleviate any scratchiness in the throat, per the Mayo Clinic.
Sipping on lemon tea with honey or water throughout your day will promote hydration and may even provide some pain relief, according to Penn Medicine.
You may also want to avoid caffeine and (of course) more alcoholic beverages, as they can make you feel even more dehydrated.
Try a Saltwater Rinse
Some find that gargling saltwater helps alleviate a sore throat after drinking. Just mix a half teaspoon of salt in a glass of lukewarm water, according to the Mayo Clinic. Gargle the mixture for a few seconds, then spit it out.
3. Try Throat Lozenges
Although there's no guarantee lozenges will cure your swollen throat, they probably won't hurt.
Over-the-counter lozenges contain ingredients that can provide pain-relieving effects, according to a systematic review of three randomized controlled trials comparing the use of lozenges to a placebo, published in October 2017 in the International Journal of Clinical Practice.
4. Turn on Your Humidifier
Dry air is known for causing dry or scratchy sensations in the throat, according to Penn Medicine. Combine that with a night of overindulgent drinking, and throat pain is practically inevitable.
Turning on a humidifier or taking a steamy shower can help give the air in your room a little moisture.
5. See a Doctor When Needed
If your inflamed throat is accompanied by a cold or flu, you may want to take some added measures if your symptoms persist. In addition to sipping plenty of liquids and prioritizing your rest, you can try over-the-counter cold or cough medications, according to the Mayo Clinic. But if you experience fever or digestive unrest, you may want to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
- American Addiction Centers: "Your Hangover And You"
- Mayo Clinic: "Hangovers"
- Duke University Health: "Muscle Tension Dysphonia"
- Alcohol Research: "Alcohol and the Immune System"
- Mayo Clinic: "Sore Throat"
- Mayo Clinic: "Cold Remedies: What Works, What Doesn't, What Can't Hurt."
- University of Southern California: "Sparkling Drinks Spark Pain Circuits"
- Alcohol and Alcoholism: "The Alcohol Hangover – a Puzzling Phenomenon"
- International Journal of Clinical Practice: "Rapid Relief of Acute Sore Throat With AMC/DCBA Throat Lozenges: randomised Controlled Trial"
- Penn Medicine: "Sore Throat"
- International Journal of Clinical Practice: "Efficacy of AMC/DCBA lozenges for sore throat: A systematic review and meta-analysis"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.