Your kid's sore throat: What you need to know
Find out why kids get a sore throat, and what you can do at home to help soothe your child's sore throat.
A sore throat can be annoying and painful for your child, especially if he can’t talk yet to tell you where it hurts.
For example, recently, my 2-year-old had a nasty sore throat. It started off with fever that spiked at night, grumpiness and lack of appetite.
Since he had no other symptoms except the fever, I wasn’t sure what was wrong with him, until I took him to the doctor.
My boy had bright red inflamed tonsils with white spots on them — a sure sign of strep throat, said the doctor.
He gave my son some antibiotics and told me that it looked worse than it actually was, and not to worry too much about it.
But even if everyone tells you not to worry when your kid is sick — yes, even if it’s the doctor — all you parents out there know that it’s just not possible not to worry, especially when you know your child is in discomfort.
It was like this for me because I knew my little boy’s throat must be quite painful.
So, to help ease my worried mummy self, and to help him, too, I did a little research on natural remedies for a kid’s sore throat.
I thought I’d share what I found with you, fellow parents, so that you’ll know what to do the next time your child complains of a painful throat!
But first, let’s find out what the usual reasons for a kid’s sore throat are… just go to the next page!
What causes a kid’s sore throat?
A kid’s sore throat can be caused by either a viral or bacterial infection.
Some of the viral illnesses that cause a sore throat include:
- the common cold;
- laryngitis (infections of the voice box);
- hand, foot and mouth disease; and
- other viral infections such as mumps or influenza.
Bacterial infections that cause a kid’s sore throat may include:
- strep throat (this usually occurs without a cough or cold);
- infection of the tissues around the tonsils; and
- infection of the epiglottis.
It’s important to note that treatment with antibiotics is useless for any viral infection. The symptoms will usually go away by themselves.
However, there are some things you can do at home to help ease the discomfort of your kid’s sore throat.
1. Honey and lemon juice
According to Dr. Jeeve Kanagalingam, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at Mt Elizabeth Novena Hospital, honey “is believed to soothe the throat and tame night-time coughs.”
It also has antimicrobial properties. Lemon, on the other hand, dries up congestion.
Mix together a tablespoon of each and microwave until just warm (not hot). Then, get your child to swallow the mixture a teaspoon at a time.
Important! Do take note that honey is not good for kids under 1 year of age as it may cause a condition known as botulism.
2. Licorice root
Licorice root has long been used to treat sore throats, and recent research shows it soothes sore throats when mixed with water to create a gargle solution.
Of course, if you want to try this remedy, your child should be be old enough to gargle (and know how to do so).
3. Salt water
Gargling with very salty water is another effective remedy for a sore throat.
Dr. Kanagalingam says, “Gargling with warm salt water may help break down secretions, remove white spots from the tonsils and soothe the throat.”
Once again though, your child needs to be old enough to gargle for this remedy.
More home remedies for your kid’s sore throat on the next page…
4. Slippery elm
Slippery elm contains a mucus-like substance and, when mixed with water, it forms a smooth gel that coats the throat and soothes irritation.
To use, pour boiling water over powdered bark, stir and give the mixture to your child to drink.
You may also want to look for slippery elm lozenges for your child to suck on.
5. Cool foods
Your kid with strep throat will be delighted to know that he can eat ice cream!
If the sore throat is not related to a cold or flu, then cool, smooth foods like ice cream and yoghurt can provide soothing relief.
Dr. Kanagalingam explains: “Since sore throats are usually associated with inflamed tonsils, ice cream can have a soothing effect by reducing swelling and irritation in the back of the throat slightly.”
When my 2-year-old-son recently had strep throat, yoghurt and cold milk were the only things he would eat or drink, clearly because they soothed his throat.
6. Cooling herbal drinks – ginseng tea, barley and chrysanthemum, antelope horn
Dr. Kanagalingam says, “Traditional Chinese medicine views sore throats and coughs as an overbalance of yang (heat) against yin (cool) and recommends treatment with a plethora of ‘cooling’ herbal teas.”
In fact, many of these herbal ingredients have been proven to soothe sore throats and even help boost one’s immune system.
Take note though, that although home remedies such as those previously mentioned may help to reduce your child’s discomfort, they are still not 100% effective in curing your kid’s sore throat.
This is because, as Dr. Kanagalingam says, “they only offer temporary relief… They are unable to fight the viruses that are usually the root cause of sore throats and as such, provide only temporary relief.”
Why do home remedies provide only temporary relief?
Dr. Kanagalingam explains why giving home remedies for your kid’s sore throat will not have permanent effects:
“Sore throats are usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection, and 85 to 95 percent of sore throat cases are caused by a viral infection that cannot be cured using only antibiotics.
“A sore throat is often the first sign of a cold. As such, it can present itself with other symptoms such as sneezing, coughing and throat irritation.
“Sore throats can also develop and escalate into serious illnesses. Therefore, it is important to target the viruses to completely cure yourself of the sore throat.
“In this case, home remedies are not effective in curing the sore throat because they only offer temporary relief to the symptoms.
“For example, invading viruses can cause swelling and result in white spots developing on your tonsils. Home remedies such as warm salt water may help to break down these secretions.
“However, you are ultimately still dependent on your natural antibodies to filter out these invading viruses.”
What should you look out for when treating your kid’s sore throat?
We asked Dr. Kanagalingam the question above, to help you mums (and dads!) out there know how to deal with your child’s sore throat. Here’s what he had to say:
“Home remedies are good for temporary relief. However, parents do not need to make a trip to the doctor’s office every time their child starts describing signs of a sore throat.
“As viral illnesses are the most common cause of a sore throat, it is not necessary to use antibiotics to treat them.
“Over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as BETADINE® Gargle can be used to prevent further escalation into a more significant infection.
“This contains a powerful antiseptic called povidone-iodine which is effective at killing all three kinds of sore throat causing germs – viruses, bacteria and fungi.
“BETADINE® Gargle has the medicated formulation to also provide therapy for infections of the mouth and throat such as pharyngitis and tonsillitis.
“However, prevention is better than cure and parents can help forestall infection simply by implementing hygienic practices such as washing hands regularly with antiseptic soap; avoiding sharing utensils with people who are sick; and not touching their eyes, noses or mouths with unwashed hands.”
When do you need to show your kid’s sore throat to a doctor?
While a sore throat can be quite painful, it’s usually not much to worry about. It will go away without treatment or with minor medical intervention.
However, there may be occasions when you need to show your kid’s sore throat to the doctor for treatment, such as:
- If your child has ongoing high fever for over 2 days;
- If your child has difficulty breathing or swallowing;
- If your child shows signs of dehydration (no tears with crying, no urine for more than 8 hours);
- If your child has a pink or red rash;
- If your child has been exposed to another child with strep throat; or
- If your child is under 2 years of age.
If the doctor diagnoses tonsillitis or strep throat, he/she will most probably prescribe a course of antibiotics that will help relieve the condition quickly.
As with any other illness, if your child is on any kind of herbal remedy at the point you take him to the doctor, remember to reveal this information, as some herbs and pharmaceutical drugs may result in nasty reactions when mixed.
Parents, how do you help relieve your child’s sore throat? Share your home remedies with us by leaving a comment.