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Sore Throat After Drinking

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Key Takeaways

  • A sore throat after drinking occurs due to the antidiuretic nature of alcohol, a weak immune system, straining of the vocal cords, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.
  • You can prevent a sore throat after drinking by staying hydrated, speaking softly, avoiding mouth dryness, resting, and avoiding dark liquors.
  • Drinking in moderation also helps avoid sore throats and other alcohol-related issues.
  • A sore throat can be treated using home remedies such as salt rinses, lemon water, hot soup, lozenges, and plenty of rest.
  • If your sore throat lasts longer than a week and is accompanied by painful swallowing or fever, seek immediate medical attention.
  • If you have an alcohol problem that is causing you to experience frequent sore throats, speak to an addiction specialist.

What Causes a Sore Throat After Drinking?

Have you ever experienced a sore throat after a night of partying and alcohol consumption? It isn't a pleasant feeling, especially with a hangover.

Various reasons contribute to the development of a sore throat after drinking: 

  • Vomiting: Someone who has vomited several times after drinking might experience a sore throat. Vomiting projects stomach acid into the throat. This can feel painful.
  • Loud yelling, singing, and talking: It's typical to have loud music and loud partying with alcohol in the vicinity. The yelling and loud singing can strain your vocal cords, leaving you with a husky voice and a sore throat the next morning. 
  • The diuretic nature of alcohol: Alcohol-induced dehydration makes you urinate often, decreasing the amount of water in your body. This dries out the protective mucus membranes on your throat, causing friction that leads to a sore throat.
  • Weak immune system: Alcohol weakens the immune system.1 It leaves you vulnerable to bacterial, fungal, and viral infection, causing a sore throat.2 
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Gastroesophageal reflux disease flare-ups may be exacerbated by alcohol use. A sore throat is a frequent GERD symptom.
  • Sulfite sensitivity: Sulfites can be found in beer and wine. Having sulfite sensitivity can cause asthma symptoms and anaphylaxis11. Anaphylaxis (a generalized allergic reaction) can cause a sore throat.
  • Grain allergy: A grain allergy can also cause asthma and anaphylaxis12. Grain alcohol can exacerbate these allergic reactions and cause a sore throat.
  • Alcohol intolerance: An alcohol intolerance can be caused by the alcohol itself or its ingredients. Alcohol intolerance can cause a runny nose or pre-existing asthma conditions to worsen. Your body's reaction to alcohol intolerance can cause a sore throat.

Common symptoms of sore throat include:

  • Painful or scratchy throat
  • Difficulty swallowing or talking
  • Swollen tonsils
  • A hoarse voice

If the sore throat is due to an infection, symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Sneezing
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Body aches
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6 Ways to Prevent a Sore Throat After Drinking

Sometimes it may be challenging to get rid of a sore throat and husky voice after drinking. However, avoiding alcohol or only having a few drinks is the best way to prevent an alcohol-related sore throat. 

Below are some of the best ways to prevent a sore throat after drinking:

1. Stay Hydrated

Alcohol is a diuretic that leaves you dehydrated. Alcohol-induced dehydration leads to several symptoms associated with a hangover. These include headache, dry mouth, and nausea.3

While a hangover often manifests several symptoms associated with alcohol dehydration, it is not the same as alcohol-induced dehydration.

Drinking fluids such as water after a night of drinking will help reduce or prevent symptoms such as dry mouth, fatigue, insomnia, and headache. In addition, your body will recover by regaining water lost during urination.

2. Humidify the Room

Dry air is also known to cause a sore throat after drinking. According to experts, breathing dry air, especially through the mouth, can cause a scratchy and dry throat.4

Turning on your humidifier or hopping into a steamy shower helps introduce some humidity in the air. It smoothes the air you breathe, preventing a sore throat. 

3. Speak Softer

In places where alcohol is sold, you may find yourself speaking loudly due to the loud music or noise from other people. 

Shouting or yelling causes muscle and voice strain, resulting in a husky voice.5 The result is a sore throat. Speaking softly will minimize the risk of a sore throat due to strain on your vocal cords. 

4. Avoid Dark Liquors

Dark alcoholic drinks like whiskey, tequila, and cognac have high levels of Congeners. Congeners are byproducts of the fermentation process that contribute to severe hangovers. 

A sore throat is a common symptom of hangovers. Consider lighter drinks like gin, rum, and vodka.

5. Get Enough Sleep Prior to Drinking

Hangover symptoms such as a sore throat might be enhanced by fatigue from sleep deprivation. 

6. Know Your Limit

Your stomach lining gets inflamed when you indulge in heavy drinking. This causes nausea, vomiting, and gastroesophageal reflux (cause of heartburn).  

Alcohol itself and the related acid reflux may irritate the mucous membrane in the throat, causing a sore throat.6

Knowing your alcohol limit will help prevent intoxication. Avoiding alcohol intoxication lowers your chances of a sore throat after drinking.

Home Remedies for Sore Throat From Drinking 

A sore throat due to an infection (strep throat) is usually treated with antibiotics. However, treatment differs for a sore throat from drinking alcohol. 

Here are the various treatment options available:

A Saltwater Rinse 

Warm salty water tends to have a soothing effect on a sore throat. Saltwater kills bacteria and loosens the mucus membrane, relieving throat pain.7

Mix about one glass of warm water and half a tablespoon of salt. Then, gargle the saltwater in the back of your throat for 30 seconds. Doing this several times a day will help get rid of the sore throat quicker.

Hot Soup

Chicken noodle soup is a typical remedy used to manage fevers and symptoms of a common cold, such as nasal congestion and sore throat.8

Hot soup offers similar benefits as hot lemon water or tea. 

In addition, hot soup containing vegetables or proteins soothes your sore throat and provides nutrients.9

Have Plenty of Rest

Our bodies tend to auto-recover from certain conditions. Getting enough rest and sleep helps your body manage the recovery process better. 

As long as there is no underlying condition, a good rest should be enough to treat a sore throat. 

Stop drinking and talking too much and take it easy for several days. This will help heal your sore throat.

Warm Lemon Water and Honey

Lemon water and honey, like saltwater, are suitable for sore throat relief. Lemons help break up mucus and relieve pain. 

They also contain a lot of Vitamin C, which strengthens your immune system. Honey acts as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent. 

For fast relief, mix one teaspoon of lemon juice in a glass of warm water with honey and drink.

Take Throat Lozenges

Lozenges may not guarantee a cure for your sore throat, but they will help relieve the pain. 

According to research, over-the-counter lozenges contain chemicals that may relieve pain in as little as 5 minutes.10 They can also provide relief even after the candy has dissolved.

Take Anti-Inflammatory Medications

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium may help reduce swelling and throat irritation. Be careful about taking these or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) after alcohol use. They can increase gastritis symptoms.

These OTC medications may also assist in relieving alcohol-induced headaches.

Take Warm Tea

Peppermint tea is a warm beverage that can ease a sore throat after drinking. The beverage has antibacterial properties that destroy bacteria, causing a sore throat.11

Peppermint also has anti-inflammatory properties. It reduces irritation and swelling while soothing your throat. 

In addition, inhaling peppermint steam can treat some symptoms of a sore throat, such as nasal congestion. 

Before taking any herbal treatments, consult your doctor since they can interfere with prescription drugs. They may also not be safe for children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with certain health issues.

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When to See a Doctor

Painful swallowing typically resolves a few days after taking alcohol. However, a persistent or recurring sore throat may require professional examination and treatment. 

Seek medical attention if you notice the following: 

  • Painful swallowing or talking
  • severe pain lasting for more than a week
  • white patches in the mouth and throat
  • Throat Inflammation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abnormal drooling
  • High fever
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Updated on September 29, 2022
13 sources cited
  1. Alcohol's Effects on the Body,” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
  2. Strep throat,” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER)
  3. Hangovers,” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
  4. Sore throat,” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER)
  5. Muscle Tension Dysphonia,” Duke University Health System
  6. Alcohol’s Role in Gastrointestinal Tract Disorders,” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)
  7. A pilot, open labelled, randomised controlled trial of hypertonic saline nasal irrigation and gargling for the common cold,’ National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 31 january 2019
  8. Does chicken soup really help fight a cold?,” Cable News Network (CNN), 9 March 2018  
  9. Chicken Soup Inhibits Neutrophil Chemotaxis In Vitro,” CHEST Journal, 1 October 2000
  10. Rapid relief of acute sore throat with AMC/DCBA throat lozenges: randomised controlled trial,” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 22 October 2009Essential Oils and Their Vapors as Potential Antibacterial Agents against Respiratory Tract Pathogens,” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 11 November 2016
  11. "Sulfite Sensitivity Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)"  Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. 2021.
  12. "Wheat Allergy" Mayo Clinic.
  13. "Alcohol Intolerance" Mayo Clinic.

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