Did you know that viruses are the most common cause of a sore throat across all age groups?4 There are many different types of viruses that can result in sore throat symptoms, including those responsible for the common cold and the flu.5
Bacteria can also be responsible for a sore throat, but bacterial infections tend to be less common than viruses. 5 A sore throat caused by bacteria is more commonly seen in school-aged children and adolescents, but can also occur in adults too.5
When suffering from a sore throat, usually all you need to do is make yourself feel comfortable and rest until it resolves on its own.1 Whilst recovering, a gentle salt water gargle is an at-home option you can try for some releif. 1-3,6
The Science Behind Salt Water & Sore Throat Relief
As mentioned, gargling with salt water is one option that might help when recovering with a sore throat. 1-3,6 But why? Well, there is little evidence that salt water gargling can specifically reduce pain, but there is some evidence that the salt might help the cells in the throat resist viruses.7 By gargling and rinsing the throat and mouth area, you also provide an opportunity to flush away anything floating around too. 7,8
Who Can Use Salt Water Gargle for Sore Throats?
As gargling is a relatively simple thing to do, most adults and older children under supervision can usually safely gargle. 3,9
Who Should NOT Use Salt Water Gargle for Sore Throats?
Young children or anyone who has difficulty swallowing should avoid gargling. 3 For those are managing blood pressure, it is important to seek medical advice from a doctor to check whether gargling with salt water is safe.
Easy Recipe for Salt Water Gargle
The advantage of a salt water gargle is that it uses ingredients that are usually found at home and can also help with general mouth hygiene. 10,11
Making a saltwater gargle can be simple and easy.5 First, get a glass of warm water then add around a teaspoon of table salt, followed by a teaspoon of baking soda.2 2,3,12 Stir the solution for as long as possible to make sure all the solids are dissolved, this should only take a minute or so. 2,3,12
How to Gargle with Salt Water to Relieve Sore Throat
To gargle, simply take a mouthful of liquid, gargling the solution towards the back of the throat and around the mouth area, including the teeth and gums.3 The liquid shouldn’t be swallowed, and the gargle process should be done for as long as possible 3 Gargling can be done up to several times a day.3
When to see a doctor
When resting and recovering with a sore throat, be mindful of how it or other symptoms are going.1 You should seek medical advice if new symptoms appear, or existing symptoms get worse and/or last more than a week. 5,13
You should also seek medical advice if you or someone in your family experience any of the following: 5
- snoring-type sound when breathing
- muffled voice
- difficulty moving your jaw
- neck swelling
- neck pain
- throat pain on one side only
- severe neck pain
- breathing difficulty
- any other signs or symptoms that concern you.
This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice.
Always read the label and follow the directions for use. Reckitt Benckiser, Auckland. RKT-M-07771
Commonwealth of Australia. Department of Health. Sore throat (pharyngitis). Date of last review March 2021 [cited Oct.2022]. Access from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/
United States Government. National Cancer Institute. Mouth and Throat Problems. Last Updated Sept. 2021 [Cited oct 2022]. Access from: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/mouth-throat
Fletcher J. Medical News Today. What to Know about Gargling with Salt Water. Last Updated Dec. 2020 [ accessed Oct 2022]. Access form: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325238
Eccles R. Lancet Infect Dis 2005; 5: 718–25
Algorithm for assessing and managing acute sore throat. In: Therapeutic Guidelines [digital]. Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines Limited; May 2022 [cited Oct 2022]. Access from: https://www.tg.org.au
National Library of medicine. StatPearls Publishing LLC [Internet]. Pharyngitis: Treasure island (FL). Last Update: May 2022 [Accessed Oct. 2022]. Access from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books
Ramalingan S et al. Scientific Reports. 2018; 8:13630. DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-31936-y
Ramalingan S et al. J Glob Health. 2020; 10(1): 010332. doi: 10.7189/jogh.10.010332
Noda T et al. J Epidemiol. 2012; 22(1): 45–49.doi: 10.2188/jea.JE20100181
Satomura K et al. Am J Prev Med. 2005;29(4):302-7. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2005.06.013
Hassan Emamian M et al. Int J Prev Med. 2013 Sep; 4(9): 1030–35
Frye R et al. J. of Family Practice. 2011; 60(5); 293-95
Kruger K et al. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2021. 19;118(11):188-94. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.m2021.0121