Dr. Marty WesolowskiA few weeks ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with a throat so sore I could hardly swallow. It lasted for days. Worried that it might be strep, I went to the doctor’s office, where they did a throat culture.

The culture was negative, which was good news. Didn’t help my throat though. The doctor — his name is Marty Wesolowski and he’s a family physician at Martin’s Point Health Care — suggested gargling with salt water. I thought it was an old wive’s tale, but research shows it can help.

“If you gargle with salt water it’s been shown to shorten the duration of your illness or your symptoms and you’re less likely to lose your voice,” Dr. Marty told me. “So you have two great benefits. You feel better faster, on average, and less likely to lose your voice.”

I went home, added a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a small glass of warm water and gargled away. A few days of that and I did feel better. Dr. Marty also recommends irrigating your nasal passages with either a saline nasal spray or a neti pot to decrease congestion. To learn how to use a neti pot safely read this information from the Food and Drug Administration.

More sore throat remedies

A couple of years ago, I turned to my friends for their sore throat remedies and several told me they gargled with salt water. Good to know there’s research to back it up. You can see their other recommendations in my blog post on home remedies for a sore throat.

Strep throat symptoms

Most sore throats are not caused by strep bacteria. But because if it is strep, complications can develop, it’s important to know the symptoms.

  • Painful swallowing
  • Sore throat that usually comes on quickly
  • Red and swollen tonsils
  • White patches or streaks of pus in the back of the throat
  • Tiny red spots on the roof of the mouth
  • Swollen, tender lymph nodes in the neck
  • Fever
  • Headache

I had two other symptoms that were clues that I probably did not have strep.

  • A cough
  • A runny nose

“Most sore throats are caused by viruses, but give your provider a ring if you have a sore throat after being exposed to strep, your sore throat came with a high fever, or you’re not improving with over the counter remedies,” said Dr. Marty.