GERD Sore Throat Remedies: Habits & Medicines

Acid reflux occurs when your stomach contents, mostly digestive juices, backflow into your esophagus or throat. One common symptom is a sore throat.

Having acid reflux on occasion is nothing to worry about, especially if you’ve just had a large meal. However, if you have acid reflux two or more times per week, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and you should talk to your healthcare provider.

If you’re experiencing sore throat from acid reflux, check with your healthcare provider. They can help you find strategies like lifestyle changes and medications to help treat GERD and improve your symptoms.

This article covers why GERD can make your throat sore, treatments that can help with symptoms, and when to see your healthcare provider.

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In 2020, the FDA called for all medications containing ranitidine, including Zantac, be removed from the market. The decision was made following the discovery that ranitidine contains high levels of a known carcinogen called NDMA. If you are using Zantac or another medication that contains ranitidine, follow FDA guidance to dispose of it, and ask your healthcare provider about safer alternatives.

Why Acid Reflux Hurts Your Throat

When someone has GERD, the LES becomes weak or fails to close tightly, causing food and stomach acids to flow back into the esophagus. The lining of the esophagus can become inflamed or irritated from these acids, which can cause a burning chest pain and sometimes a sour taste or cough. Sore throat is often one of the symptoms of GERD.

Short-term sore throat from acid reflux is caused by the digestive fluids burning your tissues. Long-term sore throat can indicate GERD with coughing, which adds to the inflammation, swelling, and throat pain.

Effects of Acid Reflux

You can’t ignore chronic acid reflux, hoping it will go away. If nothing else, the fluid or feeling in the back of your mouth will make you want to swallow, and it will burn going back down. It will only get worse until you do something.

If you have GERD complications, other serious health problems including respiratory diseases, or conditions that could be masked by GERD symptoms, the best thing you can do is talk to your healthcare provider.

Serious complications of GERD can include:

  • Esophagus erosion: Esophagus tissue lining is worn away by acid, so sores (ulcers) may develop.
  • Barrett’s esophagus: This refers to damage to the lower portion of the esophagus. It’s usually a result of repeat exposure to stomach acid. The esophagus lining starts to resemble an intestine lining.
  • Esophageal cancer: The risk of esophageal cancer seems to be higher in people who have more frequent symptoms.
  • Esophagitis: Inflammation of the esophagus is referred to as esophagitis. It is a common complication of GERD that can progress to Barrett’s esophagus if left untreated.
  • Dysphagia: The medical term for difficulty swallowing is dysphagia. Some people with dysphagia experience pain with swallowing as well.

How Long Does a Sore Throat from Acid Reflux Last?

A sore throat that lasts longer than two weeks may be caused by acid reflux. Any sore throat that doesn’t get better within two weeks should be evaluated by a healthcare provider.

Acid Reflux Sore Throat Remedies

When you have the occasional acid reflux episode, sore throat remedies can help. However, the most relief you will get is by addressing the underlying cause of your chronic acid reflux.

Some lifestyle changes may also be able to help. Once you begin treatment for your condition, you’ll notice you won’t need to manage symptoms as much.

Lifestyle Changes

One of many studies found that quitting smoking improved not only people’s acid reflux episodes, but their overall quality of life scores as well.

Some foods are GERD triggers and should be avoided to prevent reaction, including:

  • Spicy, minty, fatty foods
  • Acidic fruits and fruit juices, such as citrus and tomatoes
  • Coffee, chocolate, and other sources of caffeine
  • Carbonated beverages, such as soda, kombucha, and tonic water
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Eating within three hours of bedtime

OTC Medications

You can get over-the-counter antacids, such as Tums and Rolaids, to help neutralize your stomach acids and reduce acid reflux symptoms. They are convenient when you’re at a dinner event and start to feel heartburn. They are not for everyday use, though.

There’s growing concern about how often we’re choosing to suppress our stomach acid to prevent acid reflux. Research says around 30% of people using acid suppressors like antacids still have symptoms. Some researchers aren’t sold on the idea of suppressing acid production as a way of fighting acid reflux, calling it counterintuitive.

Other OTC medications include:

  • H2 receptor blockers: H2 blockers lower the amount of acid your stomach makes. H2 blockers can help heal the esophagus, but not as well as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) can. You can buy H2 blockers over the counter, or your healthcare provider can prescribe one.
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): PPIs lower the amount of acid your stomach makes. PPIs are better at treating GERD symptoms than H2 blockers, and they can heal the esophageal lining in most people with GERD. You can buy PPIs over the counter, or your healthcare provider can prescribe one. Healthcare providers may prescribe PPIs for long-term GERD treatment.

Sore Throat Remedies

If acid reflux is hurting your throat, you can:

  • Drink extra cold liquids
  • Gargle with salt water to alleviate inflammation and irritation
  • Add honey to a warm beverage
  • Suck on lozenges or a popsicle

Prescription Medications

Symptoms of acid reflux from GERD are usually manageable, but if you have not found relief with OTC options or lifestyle changes, you can talk to a healthcare provider about prescription-strength options (prescription medications).

It may be the case that you only need prescription medications to help with symptom management until you can change lifestyle factors enough to not need the medication anymore. This may not be the case for everybody. Talk to your practitioner to see what’s right for you.

Your healthcare provider may prescribe the following medications:

  • Lioresal (baclofen): Reduces the relaxation of the LES which allows acid backwash
  • Prokinetics: Strengthens the LES and helps stomach empty faster

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Contact your practitioner if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Appetite loss
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Problems or pain while swallowing
  • Signs of bleeding in the digestive tract, such as vomit that contains blood or looks like coffee grounds, and stools that contain blood or look black and tarry
  • Unexplained weight loss

Summary

The best way to cope with the sore throat caused by acid reflux is to identify and manage the cause of your acid reflux. In the meantime, you can drink warm beverages, gargle with salt water, and suck on lozenges or a popsicle to alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

  • Emerenziani S, Rescio MP, Guarino MP, Cicala M. Gastro-esophageal reflux disease and obesity, where is the link? World J Gastroenterol. 2013;19(39):6536-6539. doi:10.3748/wjg.v19.i39.6536


By Michelle Pugle

Michelle Pugle, MA, MHFA is a freelance health writer as seen in Healthline, Health, Everyday Health, Psych Central, and Verywell.

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