What Does Gargling Salt Water Really Do For Your Sore Throat?

Gargling with salt water is a popular home remedy for a sore throat. Not only that, it has long been used to help relieve symptoms of minor respiratory infections, like sinusitis and the common cold. But does it really work? As it turns out, gargling warm salt water is more than just a folk remedy. 

Salt water gargles soothe throat pain by drawing out fluids from your mouth and throat, and reducing inflammation. "The salt functions as a magnet for water," Dr. Sorana Segal-Maurer, the chief of the Dr. James J. Rahal Jr. Division of Infectious Disease at New York Hospital Queens, explains to WebMD. "You're creating a high-salt barrier and you're pulling out a lot of fluids from the tissues in the throat area, so you're washing the virus out. It's good for symptomatic relief." 

While a salt water gargle won't cure your sore throat, it certainly can help ease your discomfort and even prevent it from getting worse (via Healthline).

How to gargle with salt water

Making a salt water gargle is easy, cheap, and convenient. All you need is one-half teaspoon of table salt (but kosher or sea salt work, too) mixed in an 8-ounce cup of warm water, as recommended by Mayo Clinic. Once the salt has dissolved, you can take a sip of the solution, swish it around your mouth, tip your head back, and gargle for 10 to 15 seconds. When you're done gargling, swish the salt water around your teeth again and spit it out. Repeat this until the entire glass is empty.

You can safely gargle salt water up to three times per day, depending on the severity of your symptoms. "I tell my patients that gargling warm salt water is safe and can be continued as long as it is providing symptomatic relief," Dr. Michael Lerner, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at the Yale University School of Medicine, told Insider. "However, if symptoms worsen or progress, it is important to seek medical evaluation."