Thursday, February 08, 2007

Salt for the Sore throat

I have always hated getting sore throats, my throat always gets heavy and hurts whenever I try and swallow. It is literally the worst feeling because I can't even talk without being in pain. While trying to fall asleep or waking up, the pain gets worse and makes me want to cut my throat off. When I was younger and felt a sore throat coming along, my mother brews me up a conconction of salty water (NaCl) and makes me gargle with it right before I go to bed. I always hated gargling, but this actually works. It used to make my throat feel so much better. It did provide only temporary relief but gargling for a few days would be enough to cure my throat.

Reading up on how the salt actually works is quite interesting. Sore throats become sore due to inflammation which in most cases is caused by a viral/bacterial infection. This inflammtion causes pain, swelling, itchiness. The swelling medically termed edema, and in this case is caused by an increased water content of the throat lining (mucosa). The gargling salt mixture has a higher salt of concentration than the mucosa, that it is more hypertonic to the surrounding tissues. This causes water to be drawn out from the mucosa providing relief.

My mother gargles with salt everyday and I don't remember her ever complaining about a sore throat. Another thing I have learnt is that salt water also has a cleansing action; After bacterial infections, allergic responses etc there is a lot of post nasal drainage. Mucus which drains into the back of nasal cavity has chemicals that trigger inflammations, leaving behind inflammed tissues. Salt water cures this. As always everthing in moderation, having too much salt in the water could cause a worse irritation than before.

A research activity conducted found salt water to be almost as effective as using over the counter sore throat sprays and lozenges <>
How hard could it be to make salt water, apparently hard enough for some, there were several websites giving a different recipes for making salt water, here is the recipe my mother uses, 1/4 tsp of salt, 1/2 cup of warm water and a dash of tumeric.


Liz said...

Hi Kajal,
I think your post is really interesting. My mom always made me gargle with salt water too, but I hated it. I was always convinced that it didn't have any effect. I feel really enlightened after reading your post. Thanks! Next time I have a sore throat I'll be gargling with salt water.

Terry said...

I have never heard of this remedy for soar throats. I absolutely cannot stand soar throats and I agree with you that they are one of the worst pains. I will definitely make sure to try this remedy the next time I get a soar throat. I have heard however of salt water having the ability to heal minor scrapes, bruises, etc. Growing up near the ocean, I was always told this though I don’t know the truth or science behind it. You mention salt water having the ability to relieve sore throats caused by inflammation so I would imagine salt water could be beneficial to inflammations in areas other then the throat.

Amit Shah said...

My parents always made me do the salt-water gargle when I was younger and had a sore throat as well. It seems as though there are a few home remedies that are much cheaper than prescribed medicines and are just as effective.

Jason said...

I always wondered if the salt water remedy had any scientific backing, and it was really interesting getting to read your post. The links you put were great too. One question I have is if maybe there was a typo when you called the salt water hypotonic to the mucosa because hypotonic would imply the salt water is less concentrated to its surroundings. It makes a lot of since though that if the salt water was hypertonic to the surroundings that it would cause the proteins in the bacteria to denature and also cause the bacteria to shrivel up and die due to loss of water because I learned in my biology class that there are three changes in surroundings that can cause denaturation. They are pH, temperature, and salt concentration. Anyway, I loved your post, good job.

Kajal Patel said...

Jason you are right. Sorry about the typo, I tried to fix it but I can't seem to be able to edit my post after its been published.

Daphne said...

I corrected the posting to read hypertonic.

I was never forced to gargle for sore throats, but would use salt water gargles for gum ulcers or irritations caused by braces. Glad my mother did not realize the same principles could apply to throat inflammation. :)