Whether you’re at home or on the road, a nagging sore throat gets old fast. There’s no miracle cure for viral infections like colds that might have you coughing, but there are some natural remedies that can help you soothe a sore throat, at least temporarily.
Wet or dry cough?
It’s important to distinguish between wet and dry coughs as they require different types of treatment.
- Remedies should soothe irritation for dry coughs where there’s no expectoration.
- Treatment for wet coughs should help relieve congestion.
Most of the remedies listed below work for both types of coughs. The majority use ingredients that are readily available, so they’re convenient when you’re travelling.
Staying hydrated is paramount, especially when you’re not feeling your best. Drinking lots of fluids when you have a bad cough helps reduce inflammation, relieve dryness and irritation, and liquify secretions, making them easier to expel. Hot drinks are recommended for wet coughs, whereas dry coughs call for very cold liquids that will soothe an inflamed throat.
Keep your head up
Raising your head slightly at night (by using two pillows instead of one, for example), will help mucus drain more easily and prevent nighttime coughing fits caused by secretions that accumulate in the bronchi.
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, ginger is great for soothing stubborn dry coughs and even relieving pain. Steep a few pieces of roughly chopped ginger in cold or hot water, depending on your preference and the nature of your cough. You can also reap the benefits of other natural ingredients and give your
Gargle with salt water
Gargling with salt water rehydrates a dry throat and helps you expel secretions. Add a little salt (¼ to ½ teaspoon) to one or two cups of water and gargle. Be careful not to go overboard with the salt, as too much can irritate your throat.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a popular home remedy for coughs that’s usually administered by gargling. To do so, just dilute some vinegar with fresh water. If you’re brave (or if you like the taste) you can also take a teaspoon or two each day. To learn more about apple cider vinegar, read our article about its hidden benefits.
Some say chicken stock helps liquefy mucus and that it has anti-inflammatory properties. If you want to try this remedy, go for homemade broth made from chicken bones and fresh vegetable scraps. Store-bought stock is heavily processed and often contains large amounts of added sugar, salt, and other ingredients meant to artificially enhance flavour.
Many herbs are known to have beneficial properties, including thyme, another well-known natural remedy for sore throats. Make an infusion with fresh or dried thyme. Adding a little dried anise will make for an even tastier beverage. Marshmallow root and slippery elm are also said to have medicinal properties. They are available as herbal teas in most natural food stores.
Keep humidity levels up
Prevent your mucus membranes from drying out and getting even more irritated by increasing the humidity level in your bedroom with a hot or cold electric humidifier. Make sure the humidity level doesn’t go above 50%. Otherwise, your airways could be affected by various allergens that degrade air quality.
The soothing properties of honey are well known, and it’s probably one of the most popular home remedies. Some studies have shown that honey is effective in reducing cough symptoms. You can take a teaspoon of straight honey or stir it into a hot drink. But be careful not to consume any before bed—sugar can cause insomnia, especially if you already have trouble sleeping. Sleep is crucial for healing, so it’s best to avoid remedies that could prevent you from getting the rest you need.
If you’re really congested, take a hot bath or inhale steam by putting your head over a bowl filled with near-boiling water. Steam helps liquefy secretions, making them easier to expel and relieving cough symptoms. You can also add a few drops of an essential oil with soothing or decongestant properties like eucalyptus, geranium extract, lavender, or peppermint.
When to see a doctor
The general recommendation is to see a health professional if you experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- A cough that persists for more than 10 days
- Difficulty breathing
- High fever or pain
- Aggravation of an existing respiratory health problem
If you need to go to a clinic or the hospital, take all necessary precautions to reduce the risk of contamination, including wearing a mask that covers your mouth, washing your hands often, and coughing into the crook of your arm.
Please note that this article is for information purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of a certified health professional.