Sore throats will happen. How to treat a sore throat during pandemic times.

Jan 19, 2021

Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Dylan DeMelo didn't make it to work Jan 14th. In case you don't follow them, DeMelo plays defensive for the Winnipeg Jets. Jan 14th was the Jets Home Opener. In fact, DeMelo says he won't be playing until this Saturday. The condition stopping DeMelo from playing seems to be more common than ever. My co-workers at the pharmacy have noticed an increase in the condition in people coming into the store and calling for prescriptions. One of our pharmacist's daughter has the condition as well. And it all seems to be linked to something that was going on last April.

Another common condition is a sore throat. The medical term for a sore throat is pharyngitis. A sore throat is most commonly caused by a virus. Other causes include bacteria, allergies and exposure to something irritating like second hand smoke. If you have a sore throat, what should you do? In normal, non-pandemic times, I would just reassure you that most sore throats get better on their own in about a week. That is still true during a pandemic, but if you have a fever of 38 C or higher, trouble swallowing or breathing, a rash, or loss of taste or smell in addition to your sore throat, phone your doctor or walk-in clinic. These could be signs of strept throat or COVID-19 and your doctor might want to examine you further or refer you for COVID testing.

Assuming you have just a sore throat with no fever, breathing problems, or rash, the best thing for you is lots of rest and fluids. Sucking on ice cubes, sipping on warm broth, sucking on a sugar free candy or gargling with saltwater can all help reduce the discomfort of a sore throat. Ice cubes, ice chips and popsicles should all be melted in the mouth and just the cold liquid should be swallowed. Hard candies and non-medicated lozenges work by stimulating saliva flow but should be avoided in kids under 4 as they could be a choking hazard. Saltwater gargles are usually made with ½ tsp of salt in an 8 oz glass of warm water. We save saltwater gargles for kids over the age of 6 so that they understand to spit out the water and not swallow it. Honey can soothe a sore throat. Try 2 teaspoons at bedtime or as needed. I like mine in herbal, caffeine free tea. The honey can also help calm a cough. Honey is not recommended in children under the age of 1 due to the rare risk of botulism.

Over the counter acetaminophen (aka Tylenol) and ibuprofen (aka Advil) are excellent choices to reduce the pain of a sore throat, however they do take 30 minutes or more to kick in. Usually, we start with low doses in adults like 325 mg of acetaminophen or 200 mg of ibuprofen. If you want something faster than pain killing pills, we reach for sprays and lozenges.

Sprays and lozenges work faster than oral analgesics but they don't last as long. And there is some evidence that sprays and lozenges don't work any better than non-drug measures. Most sprays and lozenges have several ingredients in them. Feel free to ask your pharmacist to help you pick one out. Two common ingredients are menthol like in many of the Halls lozenges and benzocaine like in many of the Chloraseptic lozenges. Menthol is an oldy but goody medication that makes cough drops smell "mediciny". Menthol is also considered soothing for a sore throat. Benzocaine is a local anesthetic. It will actually numb your throat. In fact, I warn people not to drink hot beverages right after using a benzocaine lozenge because they might accidentally burn their throat and not realize it. Benzocaine is to be avoided in kids under 2. This is due to rare cases of methemoglobinemia which makes your red blood cells less able to carry oxygen throughout your body. Symptoms include blue skin, confusion and breathing problems. If someone is experiencing these symptoms, seek medical attention.

Two newer products on the market are Betadine Sore Throat Gargle and Betadine Sore Throat Spray. They both contain povidone -iodine. Since iodine is a topical antiseptic, the hope is they will kill bacteria and viruses in your throat. The down side is since they contain iodine, the iodine might stain clothing, towels, wash cloths, dentures, braces and other dental work. Also, since they contain iodine, the Betadine's should be avoided in people with thyroid issues. Finally, to keep things confused, Betadine makes Cold Defense Nasal Spray. It does not contain any povidone-iodine at all. It has iota-carrageenan in it.

Do you remember April 2020? The NHL and NBA had been cancelled. Schools were closed. Movie theaters, bars and restaurants were closed. Everyone was spending a lot of time at home, because well, there wasn't much else to do. And nine months later, there seems to be a lot of babies being born. It seems like NHL'ers like DeMelo weren't immune to this condition. I have no idea if there are any official stats to back me up, but I think we are going through a small COVID baby boom. And hey, with all the bad COVID news out there, I'll take any small bit of good news I can find.

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.


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