Should I Gargle Salt Water for a Sore Throat?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 March 2019
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Many people gargle salt water for a sore throat, and this home remedy is widely recognized as effective in helping to alleviate the immediate pain caused by the sore throat. The salt removes the moisture that provides the fertile grounds for bacteria, and helps to kill it. While gargling with salt water can help a sore throat in many cases, it shouldn't be used too frequently and should be avoided altogether for some illnesses.

While it's fine to gargle with salt water from time to time, relying on this home remedy will not necessarily eliminate the underlying reason for the condition. For example, you have a sore throat with a rash, or a sore throat and cough, there may be the need for more aggressive treatment. This may involve the use of over-the-counter products, like sore throat lozenges that help to soothe the throat while also easing the urge to cough. When used in conjunction with antibiotics to kill the underlying infection, these products are likely to be more beneficial in terms of clearing up the sore throat rather than simply managing the symptoms.


There is also some risk that choosing to gargle salt water for a sore throat will do more than kill some of the bacteria causing the irritation. Too-frequent use of the salt water solution may dry out the throat and mouth too much, paving the way for additional health woes. If the gargling does not produce the desired results in 48 hours, abandon the home remedy and seek medical attention.

People with high blood pressure are also sometimes warned to not gargle with salt water. The technique often needs to be repeated throughout the day, which can introduce a significant amount of sodium into the system, even when efforts to not swallow the salty water are made. Salt can raise a person's blood pressure, and people who already suffer from hypertension are usually advised to eliminate most sodium from their diets. In this case, using some other method to soothe the rawness of the throat — one that does not involve the use of salt — would be a better option.

Gargling with salt water should not be viewed as a way to permanently end the discomfort of a sore throat. While the salt does deplete the moisture content of the bacteria, it still may be able to reproduce, requiring additional gargling. Should the problem persist for several days, you should stop this treatment and make an appointment with a healthcare provider to get a firm diagnosis and a prescription to treat the underlying cause, if needed.


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Post 3

I'm four months pregnant and suffering from a cold with coughing and a sore throat. The doctor does not recommend taking any medications because it might affect the baby. I'm doing salt water gargling and drinking lots of tea with lemon and honey. I have to be careful about everything I eat and drink and make sure it won't endanger the baby's health. The doctor said some pain relievers are safe for me, but I'm still scared about taking them. I think gargling with salt water is the best sore throat treatment when you're pregnant. My throat already feels better and I'm not worried about whether it's safe.

Post 2

All the doctors and nurses told us to gargle our throats wit salt water last year when swine flu started to spread. The same had happened with bird flu the year before. I basically hear this recommendation every year during flu season as a preventive measure. It must work or why else would health care specialists keep recommending it, right?

Post 1

I agree that salt water gargling is not a treatment of sore throat but it's a better alternative to using mouthwashes. Several doctors have made claims that frequent use of mouthwash leads to mouth cancer. I don't know if anything has been proven yet, but the claims have been enough for me to stop using mouthwash. When I have a bacterial or viral infection causing sore throat, I gargle my throat with salt water once a day or once in two days until I'm better. This is in addition to any other treatments like antibiotics, of course. I don't think that it's excessive. It also helps with stuffed sinuses.

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