TIL: Throat lozenges (mostly) don't work

We all know that pulled beef is a SCAM. You know what else is a scam? Those expesive throat lollies claiming to heal your throat and relieve your cold.

I've got a roaring sore throat today and decided to pop some Betadine lozenges into my mouth. Then that's when I discovered some small print on the back of the box:


"There is no clinical evidence that an antibacterial agent in lozenges will make sore throat infections less severe, or help them get better more quicky"

Now that's something you don't see everyday— an honest disclaimer. I thought that this required more digging and found some articles by Choice which briefly summarised:

  1. Benzydamine hydrochloride and flurbiprofen, common anti-inflammatory drugs do work and work best when administered orally via a spray or gargle solution. Unfortunately, this wasn't present in the lozeng I'm sucking on..

  2. Amylmetacresol, cetylpyridinium chloride, dichlorobenzyl alcohol and hexylresorcinol are anti-bacterial agents that target bacterial infections. However, most people suffering from a sore throat might be suffering from virus infections, and anti-biotics won't help here.

  3. Lignocaine hydrochloride and benzocaine are anesthetics and will numb your mouth. From my personal experience with they do little to numb throat pain, and the anaesthetic effects are so mild and localized that all you will feel is a slightly numbed tongue.

  4. Pholcodine and dextromethorphan hydrobromide are antitussives that are intended to help suppress dry, unproductive (non-phlegmy) coughs, which can contribute to making your throat sore. But a wide-scale review of trials testing antitussives (mainly dextromethorphan) found that they were no more effective than a placebo for treating coughs in most cases.

  5. Menthol/peppermint oils and extracts give you a refreshing, decongesting sensation in your sinuses. But the effect of nasal decongestion from menthol is subjective — studies show that although people feel decongested after inhaling menthol vapour, there's no actual improvement in the nasal airway when airflow is measured.

  6. Eucalyptus — Just like menthol, eucalyptus is thought to act as a nasal decongestant. However, there's a lack of controlled, clinical studies to support its effectiveness.

  7. Pectin is commonly used as a thickening agent (think jellies) and will help coat your throat, giving you the same soothing effect as a teaspoon of honey would.

The conclusion? A much more effective (and cheaper) solution was to:

  • Drink warm liquids. Hot water with honey and lemon is a time-honoured remedy.
  • Gargle with warm salt water (half a teaspoon of salt in one cup of water).
  • Suck on ice.
  • Use your air humidifier, if you have one.


  • +6

    Some advice I got from an old friend who was studying med (no idea how effective this really is, but YMMV):
    Drink something to kill off the bacteria in your throat. Whisky, vodka, mouthwash, whatever.
    Eat some yoghurt. The bacteria in the yoghurt should make it hard for other bacteria to cling to the surface.

    • +8

      I used to gargle vodka back in my uni days… whether I had a sore throat or not come to think of it…

    • +3

      A chlorhexidine based mouth wash is a better bet. Alcohol doesn't have the staying power.

      • Rivacol?

        • +1

          Savocols probably more common and a little stronger, but sure. Its the active ingredient thats doing all the heavy lifting.

          Its only effective against bacterial infections, and it'll irritate the mucous membrane of the throat making you more susceptible to infections in the future so its not really a long term plan.
          While I've got you here, you can tell that demoness wife of yours she scored a critical hit with that last exchange we had.
          god damn Blueberry Cheesecake…

        • -1


          While I've got you here(…)

          Supergirl is out of office all day. "She's in court" , I'm told. "Not for a cheesecake nor a jägermeister-related incident", I'm reassured.

          Drat! Here I was hoping that she'd get sent to jail and we wouldn't have to move to Mauritius. Unlikely to happen if it's a work-related court attendance. * Sigh

        • @Jar Jar Binks:

          JJ when are you gonna learn? Life doesn't just happen how you want because of hoping. You can hope all you like, hope until the cats come home, it won't change a thing. At some point, you gotta stand up, be a man and make things happen. Use her computer to visit a few jihadi websites, plant a bad of fertilizer in the boot of her car, maybe buy a plane ticket to syria in her name… put that big brain of yours to use.
          Then you dial in the feds, and sit back. She's brown, right? Yeah, one phone call and they'll be swarming all over her in no time.
          Pretty soon her passport will be cancelled, and you can stay in australia forever. Problem solved.

          Why do you want to go to Mauritius anyway? Come round to my place. I'll lay out some of the sand I have left over from concreting, hang up 5 1kw lights, serve you watered down lukewarm beer, maybe even get my large neighbour(he tends to spit a little as he talks) to come around and tell you his tales as a plasterer if your lucky.

          You could be sitting in the sand, sweating profusely under baking light, with a gentle spray of fine mist dancing across your cheek, right now. Why go half way around the world for what you can get right here for a fraction of the price?

        • +1


          She's brown, right?

          Nope. She's golden honey, with cherry coke red hair à la Selena Gomez.

          Pretty soon her passport will be cancelled, and you can stay in australia forever.

          She's not an Australian citizen:( The Australian government can't keep her here. I can't keep her here. It's all doomed really.

          Why do you want to go to Mauritius anyway?

          I don't but I did promise once that if she agreed to marry me and stay here with me, we would save money and eventually move to her beloved country.But we were at the airport and she was boarding a flight to Mauritius and I thought I would never see her again. She's a goddess. I couldn't let her leave. I had to do something; say something. So I asked her to marry me and promised we would one day buy a house in Mauritius and live happily ever after. 'One day' came too soon :(

          Come round to my place.

          How about next time you go to Southland , you keep an eye out for a family of four: a devilishly good-looking man (me) , a bewitching goddess ( description of mrs JJB above) and a set of non-identical twins( jedi-girl and jedi-boy). Come over to say hello and the lukewarm , watered-down drink will be on Wiki :)

        • +1

          @Jar Jar Binks:

          Come over to say hello

          Tempting. Very tempting. But I'm afraid if I see anyone even close to matching that description I am running the other way as fast as my feet can take me. A large shopping centre is the last place I need someone coming along and shattering my reality matrix with her cookie wand.

          You're stories are good, very touching and I mean that sincerly (though evidently your a big fan of romantic comedies). But wikis posts are on another level. Its the main way I can tell you apart. Talking about folding up boxes and cheesecake, it reads like a freaking deep conditioning trigger statement
          There are 3 flowers in a vase, the third flower is…FU!

          JJ, If you wanted to meet me so badly, you should have just said so. I'll be at dendy park, tonight at 10.30pm. Come, and we'll see who can do the most pullups.. once and for all.

        • @outlander: Are you asking me out on a date? A bit short notice, isn't it? :-)

        • +1

          @outlander: My birthday is in November and my favourite colour is… not green :P


          Edit : you must never accept candies from a stranger. Cookies are ok though, because they are made with love and some say that they might even make you feel right as rain, whatever that means.

        • @Jar Jar Binks: 654
          Best dates are impulsive. Plus don't worrry even if you leave the makeup off this time i will give yuou a free passl

        • @outlander: 2,1…

        • @Jar Jar Binks

          I didn't see you there. What happened?

        • +1

          @outlander: I was there. At the playground. The good one.

          Wiki insisted that I brought along our Shih Tzu for protection. My best friend chose to tag along too on the off chance that you might be a hot chick. He was sorely disappointed. I, on the other hand, I'm getting used to being let down:(


          we'll see who can do the most pullups.. once and for all.

          I won by default.

        • @Jar Jar Binks:

          Was the good one by the road, the one next to the grassy hills or the fenced off one?

          ehh doesn't matter, I wasn't there :P. I had planned to, but a friend invited me over to smoke. I intended to just smoke a little, but she tricked me. By the time 10.30 rolled around I was way way too baked to be running around in the dark hahaha. Forgive me :)

          I'm sure you had fun anyway. Its relaxing at night, isn't it?

          I won by default.

          We'll, we never really shook on anything, so…I'll see you next week? A final contest, to settle the score between us. Once and for all

          Edit: Is it really okay for you to be running around with weirdos in the dark like this? You're going to give wiki a bad case of the shakes.

        • +1

          @outlander: Girls and their tempting ways…I know all about them.so you're forgiven.

          Plus, it was great to spend some quality time with my bro, in a disconcertingly romantic setting, and it wasn't even awkward. I was reminded of how freakishly cool he is and how much I'm going to miss him if/when I move to Mauritius.

          Edit: Wiki said you wouldn't come because despite your regular weed-smoking ways, you still had enough brain cells left to know better than meeting a stranger you've met online, in the middle of night, in an almost deserted Park or something like that. I wasn't really listening. Wiki wins again. But then she does have a degree in psych and has worked with young adults. I, on the other hand, I'm very gullible.

          She didn't rub it in. She offered me a freshly brewed cup of coffee and a slice of cheesecake on my arrival. So all good.

        • @Jar Jar Binks:

          so you're forgiven

          Thank you, that means alot. If I could do it again I would have ditched that little booger and come played with you guys!

          regular weed-smoking ways

          Ha! I'm afraid you've got me pegged all wrong. I'm not a regular weed smoker, infact it was only this year that I tried it at all. Wiki may be clever, but she's going to need to get a little more creative in her psychological profiling if she wants to map me. In this case it was a classic example of the gettier problem, so don't go giving her too much credit.

          My brain cells, well the ones that have survived anyway, reported that the chances of me being

          • grievously hurt or dead at less than 1%,
          • seriously hurt, sexually assualted or raped at less than 2%
          • Assualted or robbed at less that 5%
          • Part of ann awkward encounter by two parties both trying to prove they're not chicken, feigning calmness while intensly searching each other for weapons and signs of mental instability at less than 85%

          with the alternative being

          • Stay home 99.9% safe but suffer adverse conditions of the what-if game and a generalized contraction of the safe zone.

          Then again, I never thought you'd be crazy enough to show. Thats why I sent that last minute text even though there was no way I was going.

          What about you? Didn't you spare a thought for wiki? Poor thing was probably anxiously biting her nails off the whole time. I really don't think she could handle another bathroom redecoration JJ :s

        • +1

          @outlander: I came because of that last minute txt. Didn't want to leave you in the lurch. Like I said, no biggie.

  • -3

    Good research, OP.
    I recommend Cayenne Pepper for a throat gargle. http://www.earthclinic.com/mobile/cures/cayenne-pepper-for-s...
    Cayenne contains a powerful ingredient called Capsaicin. This compound is an effective anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent. When you take cayenne to treat your sore throat, you'll experience relief as far as reduced swelling, but also healing as it eliminates infection.

    Salt gargle is for a SORE throat, Cayenne is for a STREP throat.

    BUILD UP your immune system, with natural antibiotics, such as raw garlic, onion, ginger, apple cider vinegar, horseradish, coconut oil, cinnamon, tumeric, Vitamin C, etc. Chicken veg soup has been traditional cold remedy for many reasons.

    • +1

      STREP throat is a bacterial infection caused by Streptococcus pyogenes and needs to be treated with antibiotics, not a condiment.
      The risk is that if left untreated it can lead to rheumatic fever which is a serious condition affecting the heart.

    • "BUILD UP your immune system with natural antibiotics"

      How on earth does that build up your immune system? What makes the cells of your immune system any different to the cells in the rest of your body such that their nutrient needs are so different? The only targeted way of building up your immune system is to expose yourself to the cytokines that tell your bone marrow to grow more (or different types) of immune cells such as filgrastim etc.

      Many of the compounds you suggested have been shown to kill bacteria in vitro - ie. in test tubes. Great. So has sugar. Why not just drink a bunch of Coca Cola then? What gives them their selective toxicity (ie. the thing that means penicillin kills bacteria but leaves your own cells unharmed)?

      The OP did indeed undertake good research, but if he researched your suggestions he would also find a lack of evidence to support any of your claims.

  • +2

    Ive never seen any packing stating its a cute
    ”heal your throat and relieve your cold”.

    Soothe the throat and clears the nose however i have.

  • +1

    Ever since my doctor upped my zinc tablets (75mg), I haven't had a cold, flu or even pimples. I used to get sick quite easily. The only downside to it are constant blood tests.

  • I gargle scotch when i have a sore throat.

    and hot toddy's.

    • hot toddy huh. Never heard of that before

      Looks like I gotta get drunk tonight

      • +1

        really? man, I've been drinking them since I was 16.

        lemon juice, honey, scotch, hot water and cinnamon.

        mix hot water and cinnamon first, then honey, then lemon and then scotch.

        gargle scotch through out the day as well. you'll feel better.

      • +1

        The mrs adds Jagermeister instead of brandy in her hot toddies. No cinnamon. No honey. She also sometime has it cold instead of hot to help soothe her throat. Prost!

  • +4

    Throat lozenges SOOTHS the throat, and makes your throat feel better. That's why people suck on them.
    They do not help with throat infections, and are NOT sold as medicine.
    I thought everyone knew that. Am I wrong?
    If you have a throat infection, see a doctor.

    • Vicks lozenges work for me. I've had a sore throat recently that wakes me up in the middle of the night so I pop a Vicks lozenge. I just wish they didn't have those wrappers that you have to tear as my fingers don't work at 3am when I first wake up.

    • I thought everyone knew that. Am I wrong?

      The marketing spin would lead most unaware into thinking otherwise. Plus there is a lot of placebo effects invovled. The Choice article however set things straight and pointed out cheaper home remedies did the trick just as well. And well, this is an Ozbargain forum…hope you get my point.

      • +1

        Good on you for evaluating the evidence. I wish your approach were more widespread in society. I also wish there were more regulations against companies making misleading claims.

    • +1

      Exactly, I've never seen these claims or thought or heard anyone say that these lozenges "heal" your throat/illness. It's purpose is to soothe and provide temporary relief.

      • +1

        But the marketing is deceptive. They benefit from the misperception that an antibacterial agent will help to cure the sore throat. Their own website says "Helps to kill the bacteria which can cause sore throat and mouth infections". Fortunately the back of the packaging gives the evidence-based truth.

    • Yep, if I've got a slight cough and I have to sit through a long meeting or something I take some regular hard lollies (or sugar free if you like) to suck on. They make me keep swallowing which stops me from coughing. That's all!

      Nothing heals the common cold. You can suppress symptoms (pain killers, anti-inflammatories), but as you say bsmksg, if you have a real problem see a real doctor.

      Who will tell you to take a day off work and have a panadol :P

  • -3

    prevention is better than cure. no to oral sex

  • +1

    I've known this for a long time and stop taking Strepsils as they had no effect. Recently I tried Betadine for the first time and it worked by temporarily numbing the throat. The same happened when I first took Strepsils so it'll probably wear off eventually too.

  • +1

    Doesn't it depend on what you expect it to do when it does work?

    I like throat lozenges because they make my throat feel better (i.e. less painful) when I have a sore throat. I thought that was entirely the point. (I know, it's probably mostly just the extra saliva. The same happens when I eat, but I can't exactly eat all day just to try and lessen a sore throat…)

    • You could try cough syrups that contain Guaiacum — pharmaceteutical compound ingredient is called Guaiphenesin.

      The 1955 edition of the Textbook of Pharmacognosy states: "Guaiacum has a local stimulant action which is sometimes useful in sore throat. The resin is used in chronic gout and rheumatism, whilst the wood is an ingredient in the compound concentrated solution of sarsaparilla, which was formerly much used as an alternative in syphilis."[3]

      You can also get sore throat from a postnasal drip click to see a picture of what it is. But basically when you're having the flu you tend to sniff and sniff when you don't have any tissues in hand and the excess mucus simply goes back down your throat, causing post-nasal drip.

      In which case you should get a cough syrup that contains Phenylephrine Hydrochloride, which is a drug that eases sinus congestion, and combo it up with salt gargle to relieve the swelling of throat membranes and honey/lemon tea to soothe the pain.

  • It’s betadine gargle or nothing