“Does gargling with salty water really do any good for a sore throat, and how? Can the salt, or effects of osmosis, damage healthy throat cells too…?”
This is a great question. Let’s start at the beginning: why does your through hurt? Well, if you have a cold or the flu (a viral infection) it is probably because the tissues in your throat are swelling. As they swell, they push on pain-sensing nerves making these nerve fibres fire. You sense this as pain – and it sucks.
So is it possible to gargle a salty solution to ‘un-swell’ the swollen tissues in your throat? YES!
The high concentration of salt will draw fluid out of your tissues (called ‘osmosis’ – in an effort to restore normal ‘osmotic pressure’). This is the same process as salting meat to draw fluid out (or putting salt on a slug to fizzle the water out of it). Assuming the salt concentration in your gargling fluid is high enough, it really can relieve the soreness of your throat because your tissues calm down and stop pressing on the nerves. At least for a little while. It doesn’t “fix” or “cure” your sore throat – it just buys you a bit of time. Your immune system does the actual fixing part.
As far as damaging the cells in your throat goes I’m not sure, I don’t think so. But one thing I have learned as I go through life is that even with the most benign acts someone somewhere has taken it too far and caused an injury. Don’t be that person. Gargle like a normal human a few times a day when you have a sore throat. Don’t drink the solution. Everything should work out just fine.
Answered by Matt Linsdell (Fitness Guru)
Question sent from Louise via Facebook
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