Menthol sore throat lozenges are a bad idea

VVirtually everyone has experienced that annoying sensation of having to clear their throats every 30 seconds. This is the first sign that something even worse might be around the corner, which is why you want to nip it in the bud as quickly as possible. How are you going to sing “All I Want For Christmas Is You” with a sore throat?

For many people, sucking on menthol lozenges is their first line of defense. And for those whose throats are already raw and sore, the instinct is to have one in their mouth almost constantly. This is exactly why it’s so surprising that Inna Husain, MD, assistant professor and section head of laryngology in the otolaryngology department of the section head of the laryngology department at Rush University Medical Center, says that the The use of menthol lozenges for a sore throat is actually a terrible idea.

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Menthol irritates the throat, which can cause symptoms, says Dr. Husain worse. She says the reason why, despite this, it’s a common ingredient in lozenges is because it acts as a mild topical anesthetic. “Menthol works to temporarily numb the nerves in the throat and make a sore throat otherwise feel cool,” she says. “One interesting thing I learned is that menthol was actually added to cigarettes to help numb the throat from the irritation of the smoke to help smokers, especially new ones, tolerate the initial discomfort.”

The problem, says Dr Husain, is that the throat isn’t supposed to be numb. “Chronic exposure to menthol can create a state of hypersensitivity,” she says. “When the throat becomes more sensitive it often feels more irritation for less stimuli, we call this irritable laryngeal syndrome.”

Okay, so using menthol lozenges for a sore throat isn’t really a good idea. What ingredients should you look for in cough drops instead? Dr Husain advises to opt for menthol-free honey-based lozenges. Honey is loaded with medicinal benefits, including antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. You can also include hot tea in your routine. Dr Husain says hot tea has the dual benefit of being hydrating while inhaling the steam helps open the throat. (His recipes are herbal teas or green tea which are less acidic and more pleasurable on the throat.)

If your sore throat persists, Dr. Husain recommends making a doctor’s appointment, as it could be a sign of an underlying health problem. “I have unfortunately seen cases of self-medication with cough drops for throat irritation caused by cancer,” she says.

With this information, you now know exactly what to look for when browsing the drugstore for sore throat remedies. Experience winter activities: you are ready for it.

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