Does Drinking Alcohol Actually Kill Off Your Sore Throat Germs? Science Explains

Warnings

  • Be sure to read all warning labels on any medications you are taking before drinking any alcohol. Mixing medications and alcohol can have serious consequences.

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  • Do not use alcohol to treat children, immunosuppressed people, or those who do not wish to drink.

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Causes

Viruses that cause the common cold and the flu also cause most sore throats. Less often, bacterial infections cause sore throats.

Viral infections

Viral illnesses that cause a sore throat include:

  • Common cold
  • Flu (influenza)
  • Mono (mononucleosis)
  • Measles
  • Chickenpox
  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
  • Croup — a common childhood illness characterized by a harsh, barking cough

Bacterial infections

Many bacterial infections can cause a sore throat. The most common is Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus) which causes strep throat.

Other causes

Other causes of a sore throat include:

  • Allergies. Allergies to pet dander, molds, dust and pollen can cause a sore throat. The problem may be complicated by postnasal drip, which can irritate and inflame the throat.
  • Dryness. Dry indoor air can make your throat feel rough and scratchy. Breathing through your mouth — often because of chronic nasal congestion — also can cause a dry, sore throat.
  • Irritants. Outdoor air pollution and indoor pollution such as tobacco smoke or chemicals can cause a chronic sore throat. Chewing tobacco, drinking alcohol and eating spicy foods also can irritate your throat.
  • Muscle strain. You can strain muscles in your throat by yelling, talking loudly or talking for long periods without rest.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is a digestive system disorder in which stomach acids back up in the food pipe (esophagus).

    Other signs or symptoms may include heartburn, hoarseness, regurgitation of stomach contents and the sensation of a lump in your throat.

  • HIV infection. A sore throat and other flu-like symptoms sometimes appear early after someone is infected with HIV.

    Also, someone who is HIV-positive might have a chronic or recurring sore throat due to a fungal infection called oral thrush or due to a viral infection called cytomegalovirus (CMV), which can be serious in people with compromised immune systems.

  • Tumors. Cancerous tumors of the throat, tongue or voice box (larynx) can cause a sore throat. Other signs or symptoms may include hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, noisy breathing, a lump in the neck, and blood in saliva or phlegm.

Rarely, an infected area of tissue (abscess) in the throat or swelling of the small cartilage “lid” that covers the windpipe (epiglottitis) can cause a sore throat. Both can block the airway, creating a medical emergency.

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5. Ginger Tea

This superfood contains volatile oils with the ability to defend against harmful bacteria, viruses and fungus infection (15). Researchers have shown that ginger increases the storage supplies of the powerhouse antioxidant known as glutathione while also aiding in pain relief. (16, 17)

Researchers have shown that compared to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), ginger exhibits the same inflammation reducing and pain relieving effects (35). Swap out that ibuprofen for ginger as your go-to aid for sore throat relief.

4. Drink plenty of water

You know you need to drink plenty of water when you are unwell and having a sore throat is no different.

Your body is more likely to become dehydrated when it’s fighting off a virus so it’s important to make sure you keep your fluid levels topped up.

But as mentioned above, you should avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol as both can dehydrate you, prolonging how long it takes your body to fight off the infection.

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Smoking can cause a sore throat and irritate it, so try to avoid smoking when you are unwellCredit: Getty – Contributor

Prevention

The best way to prevent sore throats is to avoid the germs that cause them and practice good hygiene. Follow these tips and teach your child to do the same:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the toilet, before and after eating, and after sneezing or coughing.
  • Avoid touching your face. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Avoid sharing food, drinking glasses or utensils.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue and throw it away, and then wash your hands. When necessary, sneeze into your elbow.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers as an alternative to washing hands when soap and water aren’t available.
  • Avoid touching public phones or drinking fountains with your mouth.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect phones, doorknobs, light switches, remotes and computer keyboards. When you travel, clean phones, light switches and remotes in your hotel room.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick or have symptoms.

3. Oil Pulling

Oil pulling is a traditional Ayurvedic practice that is useful to remove parasites, bacteria, viruses and toxins from the oral cavity that can be making you sick (26). After less than 2 weeks of oil pulling for only 10 minutes once a day, individuals with strep were shown to significantly have lower levels of these infectious microorganisms in their mouths (25).

Practice oil pulling using ½ tsp of a high quality organic coconut oil and mixing it with one drop of a potent essential oil with antimicrobial properties. Both lemon oil and eucalyptus oil have profound benefits on oral health. Swish this solution around in your mouth for 10 to 15 minutes. Spit the oil out and brush your teeth to remove toxic debris left behind.

7. Avoid the cold

Cold air can irritate your throat and make the pain worse.

But you can buy devices that humidify the air of the room you are in, so you will find it easier to breathe.

If you don’t want to buy a humidifier you can also place your head under a towel with a bowl of steamy water for a few minutes or take a long, hot shower.

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Reader Success Stories

  • Lily Terr

Mar 8, 2017

    Lily Terr Mar 8, 2017

    “I got a bad stuffy nose at work yesterday, so today I had a hot toddy at lunch time and rested a little before going back to work. It was time to quit and I felt lots better. Thank you for the advice.” …” more

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