How does gargling with salt water help to cure a sore throat?

Sore throat is a condition that is commonly known as pain in the throat. It is caused by viral infections, such as cold and flu. Inflammation is caused due to the infection. It is a known fact that about 7.5% of people of the total population get affected by this infection once in every three months. So, what can we do to overcome this illness? Let’s discuss!

The most common practice to treat a sore throat is to do gargles with saltwater. This method is very commonly practiced all around the world and is known to be an effective remedy of this condition. The question here is, how does this work?

Several studies have found that gargling with salt water several times a day helps in reducing the symptoms of sore throat. It has been proven that it reduces swelling in the throat and loosens mucus. This flushes out irritants or bacteria that are the causative agents of this disease.

Bacteria are considered to be very stubborn organisms. Therefore, it is believed that they can easily resist an ordinary substance like salt. But still, this trick proves to be helpful. One might wonder why? Well, the natural phenomenon and elementary principle of osmosis put the survival of these culprits at stake.

For a better understanding of this process, we must understand the concept of osmosis.  It is a process of movement of water through a semi-permeable membrane from a region of higher concentration towards the region of lower concentration. This process tends to equalize water concentration on both sides of the membrane.

Stated briefly, the principle behind this process is that if a porous partition separates dilute and concentrated solutions, then the diluted solution permeates through the porous partition into the concentrated solution. This process does not stop until both solutions are equally concentrated.

This phenomenon works in killing the microbes present in the throat. Since the saltwater is more concentrated than the normal water inside a bacterial body, it triggers the process of osmosis. The saltwater becomes the area of lower concentration with bacteria working as a higher concentration area. Therefore, water moves from inside to outside the bacteria.

Once,saltwater comes in contact with the bacterial body; they gradually lose their body fluid which causes dehydration in them. Bacteria being a living thing cannot remain active after dehydration caused in their bodies, and they wither and die before long.

Now we know why bacteria are killed by saltwater gargling. This phenomenon can also be explained with another example that if water travels from the higher concentration towards the lower concentration then another question arises here. Can a saltwater fish survive or remain alive in freshwater and freshwater fish can stay alive in the saltwater of sea?

Answer to this question is also contained in the above explanation. We have mentioned above that in osmosis reaction water is traveling from a higher concentration region towards the lower concentrated region through a semi-permeable membrane. If you put freshwater fish into saltwater, the water starts traveling from a higher concentration that is inside their body towards the lower concentration that is outside their body, into the highly saline water surrounding them. This is until they become fully dehydrated and eventually die of dehydration.

Similarly, if you put a saltwater fish into freshwater, then osmosis helps to even out the concentration inside and outside of the fish’s body. If saltwater fish lack salt, its body salt will leach out into the freshwater, and its hypertonic cells will be filled with a lot more water than needed, resulting it to explode. Saltwater fishes will never survive in freshwater because their bodies are highly concentrated with salt. The water would flow into their bodies until all their cells accumulate so much water that they bloat and eventually die.

These examples also describe that osmosis reaction helps in the treatment of sore throat and kills the bacteria that causes irritation and swelling in the throat. This proves that salt gargling is an effective treatment for sore throat, and one should do it several times a day for more effective results.