Salt Water Gargle For A Sore Throat: How Does It Work?

Email to Your Friends

Salt Water Gargles For A Sore Throat

Salt water gargling is a popular, first-line-of-defence therapy to ease a sore throat. Research validates it as a cost-effective and useful method to counter most upper respiratory tract infections. A salt water solution works on the principle of osmosis, drawing out water from the swollen, infected areas of the throat and providing quick symptomatic relief. Ayurvedic practitioners recommend adding a pinch of turmeric powder as well to enhance the effectiveness of this remedy.

“The pharynx is the garbage dump of the bronchial tubes and the nasal passages,” said the late Sir William Osler, a celebrated Canadian physician.1 Anyone who’s endured a particularly bad sore throat would agree. Fortunately, most of us know that using salt water gargle for a sore throat works wonders. But does this popular treatment for sore throats actually work?

Warm Water Gargle Can Reduce Chest Infection By 40%

Salt water gargles feature prominently in most families’ roundup of home remedies. You’ll be happy to know that scientific research has probed this “grandma’s remedy” and validated its efficacy. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that warm water gargles done 3 times a day can reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) by about 40%. The researchers also found that gargling with water effectively alleviated the discomfort of a sore throat among volunteers who had contracted a URTI.2

Salt Water Gargle Can Relieve Soreness And Pain

So how do warm water salt gargles work and what’s the role of salt? The answer to that lies in osmosis, the process by which water moves across a membrane, from a dilute solution to a concentrated one (you learned it in school!)3

The mucous membrane lining your throat is a place that invading viruses and bacteria find warm and hospitable enough to flourish.4 The resulting pain and soreness are caused by edema or swelling of the infected throat tissues. The salt water gargle – in medical parlance, hypertonic solution – has a higher concentration of salt than the fluids in your throat tissues, and hence draws away water from them. This helps relieve those uncomfortable symptoms like soreness and pain while swallowing.5 6

Salt Water Gargle Can Expel The Infectants

But that’s not all. Warm salt water helps destroy the organisms that cause the infection. How? Osmosis again. When the salt water solution drains out the fluids in which the organisms thrive, they become dehydrated and perish. The bacteria-laden mucus is washed out by the gargle.7

Gargle Warm Salt Water 3–4 Times A Day

Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in 8 oz. (1 cup) warm water. Gargle at least 3–4 times daily.8 Also drink plenty of fluids – water, juices, and soups. About 8–10 glasses a day should help keep your throat well-hydrated.9

Salt Water Gargle Is Safe For Children

Viruses account for 95% of sore throats among children below 5 years and 70% of sore throats in children aged between 5 and 15 years. Bacterial infection (specifically strep throat) is responsible for about one-third of sore throats among children in the 5–15 age group.10

This being the case, salt water gargles are likely to be frequently used in families with young, school-going children. And with good reason too – after all, it’s safe and side-effect free!

Here are a few tips on preparing and using salt water gargles specifically for children:

  • Prepare a salt water gargle using ½ to 1 teaspoonful of salt in 8 oz. of warm water.
  • For smaller children who may swallow the solution, use less salt, about ¼ to ½ teaspoonful.
  • Avoid gargling altogether if a child’s sore throat is too painful or if they cannot gargle without choking.11

Ayurveda Recommends Adding Turmeric Powder In It

Salt water to ease a sore throat finds mention in Ayurveda too. Ayurvedic practitioners also recommend adding a pinch of turmeric powder to your salt water gargle to make the remedy more effective.12 Turmeric is widely recommended for upper respiratory tract diseases as it has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.13

How To Prepare

  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon rock salt/sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

Boil the water and dissolve salt and turmeric powder in it. Set aside, cover, and allow the solution to steep for 5 minutes. Use it when the temperature cools down and it’s comfortable enough to gargle.14

A Word Of Caution

If your sore throat doesn’t clear up with salt water gargling in about 3 days, it may be time to seek professional medical help. Symptoms like fever, enlarged tonsils, and white mucus patches on the throat or tonsils could be signs of a bacterial infection for which you may require antibiotics.15 A low-grade fever and a hacking cough can be symptoms of walking pneumonia too.

References   [ + ]

1.Worrall, Graham J. “Acute sore throat.” Canadian Family Physician 53, no. 11 (2007): 1961.
2.Satomura, Kazunari, Tetsuhisa Kitamura, Takashi Kawamura, Takuro Shimbo, Motoi Watanabe, Mitsuhiro Kamei, Yoshihisa Takano, Akiko Tamakoshi, and Great Cold Investigators. “Prevention of upper respiratory tract infections by gargling: a randomized trial.” American journal of preventive medicine 29, no. 4 (2005): 302-307.
3.Lodish, Harvey, Arnold Berk, S. Lawrence Zipursky, Paul Matsudaira, David Baltimore, and James Darnell. “Osmosis, Water channels, and the regulation of cell volume.” (2000).
4.Sore Throat. University Of Connecticut.
5.Pharyngitis – viral. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
6.Composition and method for treating sore throat. Google Patents.
7.Editors at Reader’s Digest. Doctors’ Favorite Natural Remedies. Simon and Schuster, 2016.
8, 15.Sore Throat. Rutgers.
9.Sore Throat. University of Connecticut.
10. Worrall, Graham J. “Acute sore throat.” Canadian Family Physician 53, no. 11 (2007): 1961.
11.Murat, Brian, Greg Stewart, and John Rea. Do I Need To See The Doctor? : The Home Treatment Encyclopedia. John Wiley and Sons, 2008.
12.Kateregga, John N., Prossy N. Nantale, and James G. Ndukui. “Journal of Pharmaceutical and Scientific Innovation.”
13.Prasad, Sahdeo, and Bharat B. Aggarwal. “Turmeric, the golden spice.” (2011).
14.Tiwari, Maya. Ayurveda: Secrets of healing. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 2007.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Email to Your Friends