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.