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  • Writer's pictureRuby Deubry

Managing a Sore Throat on a Busy Schedule

Updated: Jan 5, 2019

Sore throats can be caused by physical irritation or as a symptom of a bacterial or viral infection, which is the usual suspect. [1]  In many cases, a sore throat is an early indication of a cold or flu and comes when you least expect it! FYI, flu season peaks around January or February in the US so still be on guard against picking up the virus. [2]

 Unfortunately, a sore throat is one of those non-specific symptoms that doesn’t buy you a day off work, school, or other important events. And if you’re like me and constantly on-the-go, you need to manage it – fast!

Avoid hot drinks. Heat increases blood flow to an area and you're trying to reduce swelling.

Here are my Top 5 Tips to help you control a sore throat when you’re away from home:

  1. Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help the pain long term Here’s where ibuprofen (e.g. Advil) has an advantage over acetaminophen (Tylenol). While Tylenol reduces pain, Advil has the added benefit of also reducing inflammation. I like ibuprofen gel caps, which work quickly. Don’t forget to take ibuprofen with food since it can irritate the stomach.

  2. Avoid hot drinks It sounds good: you have a sore throat so have a nice, soothing cup of hot tea. Actually, heat increases blood flow to an area and you’re trying to reduce swelling and irritation, not aggravate it. So step away from the Starbucks coffee and David’s Tea. Opt for cool drinks instead. [1]

  3. Lozenges and sprays If you’re on-the-go you likely won’t have the option of a saltwater gargle but lozenges and sprays will work nicely. I like honey-menthol lozenges in particular. Honey is a demulcent so it soothes the throat and menthol has local anesthetic properties. You can also find products with benzocaine, a local anesthetic. Remember that lozenges and sprays don’t work for very long (hence the use of ibuprofen or acetaminophen) so you’ll need to use them repeatedly.

  4. Stay hydrated! Fluids will prevent dehydration and will help remove excess mucus from around the tonsils, which leads to more soreness.

  5. Avoid talking If you don’t have to talk – don’t. Rest your voice for when you really need it. Talking will just hurt the throat more and the irritation could leave you with no voice at all.

Bonus info

  1. Tune-in When it comes to cold and flu, think of a sore throat as a transitional state – you very quickly go from well to sore throat to flat on your back on the couch covered with a blanket. Check-in with your body for symptoms of head and sinus pain (colds) and fever and muscle pain (flu). You might need to adjust your therapy and schedule – forcing yourself to keep going will only delay your recovery and you’ll end up having more WLD (work-loss days).

  2. Follow-up Sore throats rarely last for more than a week, although it’s possible. But, if your sore throat persists for more than 3 weeks, it’s time to head to the doctor. Also, look out for red and/or white spots that appear at the back of the throat – it may be a sign of a more serious infection. [1]


  1. Acute sore throat. NICE. Accessed from e#!topicsummary on February 24, 2014

  2. Seasonal influenza. CDC. Accessed from on February 24, 2014

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