Sore Throat in the Morning: Causes and Treatments

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Sore Throat in the MorningAfter a night’s sleep, you want to feel rested and refreshed when you wake up. Unfortunately, sometimes your throat disagrees and seemingly wants you to be sore and grumpy.

A sore throat in the morning is an irritating ailment that is, fortunately, largely harmless.

However, harmless doesn’t mean acceptable, and it’s natural to want to find what’s causing it so you can finally stop waking up with a sore throat every morning.

The good news is that morning sore throat causes are perfectly treatable at home.

What Causes a Sore Throat in the Morning?

Snoring: This may not be the first morning sore throat cause that jumps to mind, but a possible cause nonetheless. When snoring or sleeping with your mouth open in general, the throat can become dried out from air exposure. This leads to waking up hoarse and with a sore throat. If you don’t know if you snore or not, ask someone you sleep with or, if you sleep alone, consider recording yourself for a night and seeing what happens. Sleeping with your mouth open is usually a result of congestion or something otherwise obstructing the nose.

Dehydration: Much as sleeping with your mouth open can dry up your throat and make it sore, so can going to bed without adequate fluid intake. Alternatively, sleeping in a dry room or with a dehumidifier can cause a similar effect.

Acid reflux: If waking up with a sore throat is also accompanied by a bad taste in your mouth, acid reflux may be the problem. This is when stomach acid partially splashes up into the esophagus and can cause sensations ranging from heartburn to a sore throat. Although normally associated with recently eating a meal, it’s possible for acid reflux attacks to happen while you sleep.

Upper respiratory infection: If you have an upper airway infection, your nose is going to produce excess mucus as a defense mechanism. This mucus can drip down the back of your throat during the night and can sometimes irritate, inflame, and dry out the tissue, resulting in a sore throat in the morning. The same effect can happen as a result of allergic reactions such as hay fever, so you may not necessarily have to be sick to wake up every morning with a sore throat.

Other infections: One of the primary causes of a sore throat—in the morning or otherwise—is a minor viral infection such as the cold or flu. These ailments may attack the throat directly, leading to inflammation, dryness, and soreness that can feel more pronounced when first waking up.

Natural Ways to Treat a Sore Throat in the Morning

As annoying as it can be, waking up every morning with a sore throat does not automatically warrant a trip to the doctor’s office. There are a few home remedies you should consider trying either to address the underlying cause of the sore throat or to make yourself more comfortable and ease the pain.

Hydration: You may have noticed that a number of the causes of a morning sore throat involve something causing your throat to dry out during the night or bumps in throat. As a result, taking steps to keep your body adequately lubricated can be a big help. Try drinking regularly throughout the day, or at the very least having a glass or two of water before going to bed. If the air in your room or region is particularly dry or arid, consider using a humidifier.

Soothing foods: Warm broths and soups, honey, tea, and the like can all play a useful role in abating the pain caused by a morning sore throat. Cold drinks and foods can also help, but not always as consistently. Cold temperatures can make the tissue in the throat constrict, which may exacerbate the pain rather than numb the area. Generally speaking, a cold food like sucking on a popsicle will have a more productive effect than an iced drink, but your mileage may vary.

Gargling: If your sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, then gargling a salt-water solution may help. Dissolve a tablespoon of salt in a glass of warm water, gargle, then spit, and repeat throughout the day as frequently as you feel is necessary. As you gargle, the salt in the water will draw out moisture from the throat and create an environment that is less hospitable to bacteria. One thing to keep in mind though: if the bacteria is more focused in the tonsil area—which is not uncommon—it may not get as exposed to the salt water as it would elsewhere.

Lozenges: Sucking on a lozenge or dissolving one in tea can help provide relief and numbness to a sore throat in the morning. The dissolving method is better when treating a small child for a sore throat since the lozenge itself can be a choking hazard.

Avoiding food: If acid reflux is the cause of your sore throat, try to avoid eating any large meals (and ideally, nothing at all) within a few hours of bedtime.

Decongestants: If your morning sore throat is due to nighttime congestion, try taking steps to open the nasal passages before you go to bed. For instance, rub some VapoRub on your chest, take a decongestant, use a nasal spray, or inhale some steam.

When to See a Doctor

As mentioned above, waking up with a sore throat in the morning doesn’t usually mean that you have to visit your doctor, but there are a few circumstances where a sore throat can be a sign of something more serious than dehydration or a cold. Schedule an appointment with your doctor if your morning sore throat comes with any of the following:

  • A fever over 100.4°F
  • Pus, earache, or bad breath (not morning breath)
  • Tonsil swelling
  • Difficulty talking, swallowing, or otherwise opening the mouth
  • Difficulty breathing
  • The pain suddenly intensifies
  • The sore throat persists for more than a week without improvement
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