A sore throat is the second most common acute infection seen by family physicians and is predominantly a disease of youth and children in their early school years. The problem is more common in autumn and winter.
Most sore throats are caused by viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Backention (CDC) .
About one-third of sore throats in children aged 5 to 15 years are caused by a throat infection from the A β-hemolytic streptococcus group of bacteria, according to a 2007 study published in Canadian Family Physician .
Other common causes of sore throats include allergies, dry air, weak immunity, acid reflux, exposure to someone with an infection that causes a sore throat, the flu, a common cold, pollution (airborne chemicals or irritants) and exposure to secondhand smoke.
Signs and symptoms of a sore throat in children include a painful throat, pain when swallowing, a fever, swollen glands in the neck, bad breath, scratchiness in the throat, sneezing, a hoarse voice, watery eyes, a cough and redness in the back of the mouth.
A sore throat can also result in excessive crying, crankiness and refusal to eat or drink most foods. This can worsen the situation.
Most sore throats, particularly those caused by viruses, will go away on their own without antibiotics. But to get relief from the symptoms, you can use some natural remedies.
Caution: Some remedies listed below contain honey. For babies younger than age 1, use sugar instead of honey for taste. Raw honey can carry harmful bacteria that can cause infant botulism.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for a sore throat in children.
1. Salt Water Gargle
If your child is old enough to gargle, one of the best ways to get relief from a sore throat is gargling with salt water.
Salt works like an antiseptic and helps draw out the mucous. This cuts down the phlegm and reduces inflammation, giving your child instant relief.
Also, the warm, salty water is soothing on the throat.
- Mix ½ teaspoon of salt into a glass of warm water. If needed, add a small amount of honey to improve the taste.
- Make your child gargle with the solution, and remind him or her to spit the water out after gargling.
- Do this several times a day for best results.
2. Warm Fluids
Drinking warm fluids will also provide comfort to children suffering from a sore throat.
First of all, warm fluids will help keep the body hydrated, which is very important as fluids help thin excess mucus. Secondly, when the throat is raw and inflamed, drinking warm beverages keeps it moist and comfortable.
You can offer lukewarm water or warm lemonade. Hot chocolate, warm milk and weak tea can also be offered.
Homemade bone broth or light soups made with bone broth are also good.
If your child refuses large amounts of fluids at one time, give smaller amounts more often.
3. Warm Steam
While steam inhalation is beneficial, the risk of an accident is high with small children. For this reason, most parents are not comfortable with it.
However, to relieve a sore throat, warm steam created from a hot shower can be effective. The warm steam helps alleviate congestion and make breathing a bit easier. The warmth of the moisture will also thin the mucus to make it easier to expel.
- Run a hot shower and keep the bathroom door shut to prevent steam from escaping.
- Sit with your child in the bathroom, inhaling the steam for at least 30 minutes. (Do not leave your child in the bathroom alone.)
- Repeat as needed.
You can use fresh lemons to get relief from a sore throat, as they help remove mucus.
Being rich in vitamin C, lemon also helps boost the immune system and assists the body in fighting the infection that is causing the sore throat.
Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties also help reduce associated symptoms, such as a runny nose and coughing.
- Put the juice and peels from 4 lemons and 1 tablespoon of ginger slices in a pan.
- Add enough boiling water to cover the ingredients.
- Cover and let it steep for 10 minutes.
- Strain the liquid.
- Dilute this liquid with an equal amount of warm water and add raw honey for taste.
- Give your child this hot lemonade to drink, a few times a day.
Honey is a safe remedy for children age 1 and older who are suffering from a sore throat.
Honey can relieve the symptoms of a sore throat, due its moisturizing and humectant properties. It also contains antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiseptic properties that fight the microbes that cause a sore throat.
It is also good for your child’s immunity.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of raw, organic honey into a cup of warm water. Stir well and give it to your child to drink, 2 or 3 times a day.
- Alternatively, mix 1 tablespoon each of honey and lemon juice into a cup of lukewarm water. Make your child sip the mixture slowly, a few times a day.
- Before going to bed, add 1 teaspoon of honey to a glass of warm milk and offer it to your child.
Caution: As raw honey can carry harmful bacteria that can cause infant botulism, you should never feed it to babies under age 1.
6. Humid Air
Humid air helps ease breathing and provides quick relief from the discomforts of a sore throat. So, you need to increase the level of humidity in your home and especially where your child sleeps.
Moist air can also help with congestion and lessen the intensity of coughing fits associated with a sore throat.
- Use a humidifier wherever possible in your home, especially in the room where your child sleeps.
- Another option is to place a bowl of hot water in the room to increase the moisture in the air. You can also place a pot of water on the radiator in your child’s room.
Whether you are using a humidifier or a bowl of hot water, be sure to place it in a safe place to prevent accidents. Also, keep it clean to prevent mold growth.
7. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is helpful for treating a sore throat in children.
It helps alkalize the body, thus helping with dry and sore throats caused by an allergy or an infection.
It also helps maintain the pH balance in the mouth, thereby keeping the mouth well-moisturized to prevent or treat a dry throat.
Plus, apple cider vinegar boosts the immune system.
- Add 1 teaspoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon of honey to a cup of warm water. You can also add a little lemon juice. Make your child drinks it slowly. Do this 2 or 3 times a day.
- Also, you can make a gargle solution with apple cider vinegar. Mix ¼ teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar into a cup of warm water. Make your child gargle with it several times a day.
Ginger is another good home remedy for treating a sore throat in children.
It has anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antitussive (cough-suppressant) properties that help reduce congestion and relieve the symptoms of a sore throat.
Plus, it boosts the immune system to help speed up recovery.
- Mix 1 teaspoon each of ginger juice and honey. Give it to your child to relieve throat discomfort. Follow it up with a cup of warm milk. Do this twice daily.
- Alternatively, pour 6 cups of water into a pan and add ½ cup of thinly sliced ginger and 2 cinnamon sticks. Simmer it on low heat for 20 minutes, then strain it and add a bit of raw honey. Give it to your child to drink several times a day.
- Also, you can give older children ginger slices with a little salt sprinkled on them to chew on.
In Ayurveda, turmeric is a well-known remedy for a variety of health problems, including a sore throat in children.
It contains volatile oils that can help prevent or soothe a scratchy and sore throat. Also, it has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce inflammation in the airways to make breathing easier.
Plus, it is good for the immune system.
- Add 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder to a glass of hot milk. Sweeten with a little honey and give it to your child to drink twice daily to soothe the sore throat.
- Also, you can make a gargle with turmeric to soothe a bad throat. Add ½ teaspoon each of turmeric powder and salt to a glass of warm water and mix it well. Make your child gargle with this mixture twice daily.
10. Chewing Gum
Offering your child a piece of gum to chew is a simple yet effective way to deal with a sore throat. The act of chewing stimulates the flow of saliva in the mouth and throat. Once saliva production increases, the throat becomes moist, which in turn provides relief from the soreness and discomfort.
A 2011 study published in the Dental Research Journal reports that chewing gum can affect the saliva flow rate, which is important for a dry and sore throat .
You can give flavored chewing gum to your child, but avoid mint-flavored gum.
- Keeping the throat warm helps soothe inflammation. So, wrap something warm around your child’s neck.
- A warm oil massage is excellent for a sore throat, as it warms up the area and soothes the pain.
- Offer mild chamomile tea to soothe a sore throat and even clear any congestion that accompanies it.
- Give a mixture of ¼ tablespoon of cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of honey to your child once daily for relief from a sore throat.
- Give your child ice chips, popsicles or throat lozenges to suck on to help keep the throat adequately moist.
- Do not make your child talk too much. Encourage him or her to give their throat a rest.
- Avoid common irritants like fried foods, cold drinks and hard foods like nuts and biscuits that can aggravate a sore throat.
- Pay attention to the air quality that your child is breathing. Avoid exposing your child to highly polluted areas, as it can trigger a sore throat.
- Include plenty of fresh and organic fruits and vegetables in your child’s diet.
- Don’t allow smoking around your child. Exposure to tobacco smoke is a common trigger of a sore throat.
- Make sure your child gets adequate sleep and rest for faster recovery.
- Elevate your child’s head with an extra pillow at night, so that mucus can drain.
- Antibiotic Prescribing and Use in Doctor’s Offices. Centers for Disease Control and Backention. https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/sore-throat.html. Published July 23, 2015.
- Acute sore throat. Canadian Family Physician. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2231494. Published November 2007.
- The effect of chewing gum’s flavor on salivary flow rate and pH. Dental Research Journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3556288. Published December 2011.