Does Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Sore Throat?

Robert Gerchalk

Robert is our health care professional reviewer of this website. He worked for many years in mental health and substance abuse facilities in Florida, as well as in home health (medical and psychiatric), and took care of people with medical and addictions problems at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He has a nursing and business/technology degrees from The Johns Hopkins University.

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Can Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Sore Throat?

s production and response to neurochemicals. This is what’s largely responsible for the development of withdrawal symptoms, given that GABA plays a hand in important physiological functions like temperature regulation, nausea control, and smooth muscle control.

Why Might Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Your Throat to Hurt?

Having a sore throat doesn’t rank among the most common alcohol withdrawal symptoms. As such, there isn’t an extensive amount of research on the connection between alcohol detox and throat discomfort. However, in one study, sudden and relatively high doses of GABA caused a slight burning sensation in the throats of multiple participants. This pain was also accompanied by a short period of breathlessness or difficulty breathing in several individuals. 

If your throat pain is transient, short-lasting, or accompanied by breathlessness, this could be the result of the GABA neurotransmitter misfiring. Until the brain and its chemistry regain balance, your body will likely over or under-produce this amino acid and other neurotransmitters to compensate for the artificial incitement that it’s no longer getting from alcohol. This is commonly referred to as alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Detoxing in a controlled medical setting is sometimes the easiest way to contend with this and other withdrawal challenges.

Sore Throat and Dehydration

Short, transient bouts of throat pain may be related to your brain’s chemistry. However, if your throat pain lasts for hours or days, it might be a symptom of dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic that causes the body to release fluids via the renal system. Before starting detox, many people are heavily intoxicated or recovering from recent and prolonged periods of heavy drinking. When they’re already dehydrated, withdrawal symptoms, such as sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea, can make dehydration increasingly severe. Dehydration can make the throat feel scratchy, sore, and generally irritated.

Illness During Alcohol Detox

When withdrawing from alcohol, the body is in a state of extreme distress. This distress has an impact on immune system performance. However, clinicians have also discovered a strong connection between alcohol abuse and altered immunity that exists even before detox starts. 

Alcohol consumption disrupts the brain’s immune pathways in multiple ways and diminishes the body’s ability to fight infection. Chronic drinkers are predisposed to a number of health issues, including widespread or systemic inflammation and infection. With a lesser ability to fight off communicable illnesses, you might be starting your detox off while simultaneously battling a serious ailment. This is likely the case if your sore throat is paired with a fever, runny nose, or other symptoms of the flu or common cold. Unfortunately, with withdrawal symptoms like muscle aches, headache, dizziness, sweating, and chills closely mirroring those of many common illnesses, it may be hard to distinguish between alcohol withdrawal syndrome, infection, or a general ailment on your own.

Testing for Sexually Transmitted Infections

Testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is often an important part of alcohol recovery. Alcohol abuse is associated with various high-risk sexual behaviors, including unprotected intercourse and intercourse with multiple partners. When paired with lowered immunity and the physiological stress of withdrawal, the symptoms of newly acquired STIs could manifest, and STIs that have been dormant or were previously undetected might flare up. A sore throat is often the first symptom of common, oral STIs, such as chlamydia, syphilis, herpes, and gonorrhea.

Scheduling STI testing helps people in recovery get the treatment they need for minimizing or alleviating their immediate symptoms, preventing reinfection, and protecting their partners. When a sore throat is a symptom of an STI, having the underlying problem treated during detox is the surest way to get relief.

Natural Ways to Alleviate Sore Throat Pain During Alcohol Detox

After general illness and STIs have been ruled out, the best way to address a sore throat during detox is by pampering the body. Whether caused by imbalanced neurochemicals or dehydration, this symptom is often highly responsive to safe, simple interventions.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Clients in detox are often advised to drink soothing, electrolyte beverages to replace the fluid loss caused by diarrhea, vomiting, or prolonged alcohol use.

The good news is that if nausea keeps you from gulping large amounts of water, juice, or other liquids down, you don’t have to drink all of the fluids that your body needs at once. People with sore throats and severe dehydration can keep large beverage containers by their sides and sip at them throughout the day. You can also fill your diet with naturally water-dense foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. Apples, oranges, and other produce both hydrate the body and supply essential electrolytes. It’s also believed that these naturally occurring electrolytes might usher water into the body’s cells at a more rapid rate than store-bought electrolyte drinks.

Have a Cup of Tea

Hot tea has long been considered an effective remedy for mild to moderate throat pain. Given the many naturally astringent properties of tea, it helps minimize harmful bacteria. Rich with antioxidants, tea also alleviates inflammation, promotes effective swallowing motions, and aids in the clearing of mucus.

However, in alcohol withdrawal, tea also offers an impressive range of psychophysiological benefits by aiding the body in its response to stress. These benefits are especially helpful for those experiencing both sore throats and heightened anxiety at once. While GABA naturally alleviates stress, it isn’t always readily available during detox, and it might not have the impact that it should until the brain has healed. Black tea, green tea, and chamomile tea can all soothe the throat, but black tea can additionally have a relaxing, cathartic effect. You can enhance the throat-soothing benefits of hot tea by adding fresh lemon or ginger and sweetening it with natural maple syrup or honey.

Take a Long, Steamy Shower

If your throat feels dry and scratchy, you may get relief by relaxing in a hot bath or by taking a long, steamy shower. You can alternatively add humidity to the indoor air by setting up a bedside humidifier.

Use Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications for Pain Relief

Another easy way to alleviate the pain and inflammation of a sore throat during alcohol withdrawal is by using over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and aspirin will reduce redness, swelling, and inflammation, and they may make it easier to swallow without discomfort. You can also use lozenges throughout the day to numb or soothe your sore throat as needed.

Speak Softly and Less Often

It’s also a good idea to take it easy on your throat by speaking softly and speaking less often. However, having a sore throat during recovery doesn’t mean that you can’t participate in group or private therapy sessions or engage in other introspective and skill-building activities when you feel ready. This is a great time to engage in journal writing and practice active listening.

Active listening is an invaluable communication tool, especially in alcohol addiction treatment. It’s essential for benefiting from both private and group therapy sessions. In group therapy, active, empathetic listening validates the feelings and opinions of others and sets the stage for open, honest sharing. Although having a sore throat is hardly pleasant, it gives many clients the chance to build their active listening abilities and learn from others.

How Long Will a Sore Throat Last in Alcohol Withdrawal

The duration of a sore throat as a symptom of alcohol withdrawal is largely dependent upon its underlying cause. Given that GABA-related throat soreness is generally both mild and transient, it shouldn’t last for long or recur often. If it does, your medical team may prescribe benzodiazepine medications that act as GABA receptor agonists to alleviate this and other GABA-related symptoms, such as heightened anxiety.

When a sore throat is the result of a general infection or an oral STI, having the underlying illness diagnosed and treated will often cause the throat pain to abate. In the interim, keeping your body properly hydrated, getting plenty of rest, and limiting vocal activities are all natural and effective ways to reduce your discomfort and support rapid healing.

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