Spicy snacks like chips and hot sauce may seem harmless at first bite. But if you suddenly feel a burning pain in your throat, you may wonder – can spicy food cause sore throat?
The short answer is yes, spicy foods can sometimes irritate the throat and make sore throat symptoms worse. But they are not always the root cause of throat pain.
This article will explore the link between spicy food and sore throat. You’ll learn what factors put you at risk, how spiciness can aggravate throat discomfort, and most importantly, how to get relief if your throat is screaming from too much heat.
What Exactly Causes a Sore Throat?
Before we dive into whether spicy food gives you a sore throat, let’s cover the most common causes of throat pain in the first place:
- Viral or bacterial infections – Illnesses like cold, flu, strep throat, and mono often begin with a scratchy, painful throat.
- Allergies and irritants – Postnasal drip from allergies can irritate the throat. Things like smoke, air pollution, and chemicals act as irritants too.
- Acid reflux – Stomach acid backing up into the esophagus creates a burning throat pain.
- Dry air – Arid climates, breathing through your mouth, or winter weather can dry out the throat.
- Overuse – Straining your voice by yelling or overusing it when sick leads to throat discomfort.
So in most cases, sore throat is triggered by an underlying condition – not spicy food alone. BUT, spicy ingredients may intensify these existing issues for some people. Let’s look at why.
How Can Spicy Food Irritate a Sore Throat?
Capsaicin is the fiery compound in hot peppers and spices that creates a “burning” sensation. And it can spell trouble for an already inflamed or irritated throat.
When your throat is compromised by illness, allergies, reflux, or dryness, its protective mucous lining gets damaged. This leaves the raw, sensitive tissues exposed.
When you eat spicy food, the capsaicin interacts with these exposed nerve endings and triggers inflammation and pain – making your throat feel worse.
The same thing can happen if you have a scratchy throat from overuse – shouting, singing, constant coughing, or breathing through your mouth. The capsaicin just adds “fuel to the fire” and further aggravates those inflamed tissues.
A Common Culprit: Acid Reflux
Spicy food is especially bothersome for those prone to acid reflux. That’s because reflux stems from a loose esophageal sphincter that allows stomach acid to backwash into the throat.
What does this have to do with
So when reflux-prone people eat spicy foods, it’s a recipe for a sore, burning throat. The spicy flavor even mimics the feeling of throat discomfort, making it seem worse than it is.
The good news? Avoiding triggers like spicy food helps keep reflux (and throat pain) at bay.
Soothe the Burn: Relief for Spicy Food Sore Throat
Had one too many hot wings or tortilla chips doused in hot sauce? When spicy food gives you a sore throat, try these soothing remedies to cool your throat’s inflamed tissues and numb the burn:
A glass of cold milk can be very soothing. The cool liquid temporarily numb the throat. Milk also contains casein protein that breaks down capsaicin molecules and washes them away.
Suck on Ice Chips
Like milk, ice chips provide direct coldness to reduce swelling and discomfort in the throat. The numbing effect brings fast relief.
Eat Soft, Cool Foods
Foods like ice cream, yogurt, apple sauce, smoothies, and popsicles go down smoothly without irritation. Their creamy textures coat and cool the throat lining.
Avoid Drinking Water
This may sound counterintuitive, but drinking water can spread capsaicin around your throat more. Stick to dairy and soft foods instead.
Gargle Salt Water
Salt water naturally draws out fluids to reduce throat swelling. It may also temporarily “short circuit” nerve endings that are firing pain signals.
Take OTC Pain Relievers
Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can curb inflammation causing throat discomfort. Anesthetic sprays like Chloraseptic provide numbness too.
Wait It Out
Like any burn, the painful sensations fade over time as capsaicin leaves the body. The worst soreness usually lasts only 30-60 minutes.
Preventing Spicy Food Throat Pain
Once you’ve soothed a sore, inflamed throat, you want to be careful not to repeat the problem. Here are some tips to prevent throat discomfort from spicy food:
- Avoid spicy foods when sick – Colds and flu already irritate the throat lining. No need to add fuel to the fire!
- Treat underlying conditions – Get allergy control, acid reflux treatment, or voice rest to heal an irritated throat before adding
spiceslowly – When healthy, ease back into spicy foods bit by bit to gauge your tolerance.
- Check labels for hidden
spice– Many snacks like chips sneakily add hot spices and chili extract.
- Use cooling dairy – Pair spicy dishes with yogurt or milk to balance heat.
- Limit consumption – Moderation prevents overdoing it on fiery foods that inflame the throat.
Knowing your limits prevents a sore throat from happening in the first place. But if you do overdo the
When to See a Doctor About Sore Throat & Spicy Food
In most cases, spicy food throat pain resolves on its own or with at-home care. But if you experience any of the following, see a doctor:
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pus-like discharge in the throat
- Swollen neck glands
- Fever over 101°F
These can indicate an infection like strep throat needing medical treatment beyond basic sore throat remedies. It’s better to be safe and get it checked out.
Frequently Asked Questions About Spicy Food and Sore Throat
Here are answers to some common questions about the relationship between spicy food and throat problems:
Can you eat spicy chips with a sore throat?
It’s best to avoid spicy chips and snacks if you already have a sore throat. The seasoning and spices can further irritate the inflamed tissues. Stick to bland foods until the sore throat resolves.
Is spicy food good for sore throat?
No, spicy food is not good for sore throat. The capsaicin can interact with exposed nerve endings and worsen inflammation and pain. Mild, bland foods are gentler on an irritated throat.
Why does my throat hurt after eating spicy food?
Capsaicin naturally irritates mucous membranes, including the throat lining. When the throat is already inflamed or compromised from illness, allergies, overuse, or reflux, spicy food makes these issues worse and creates a burning throat pain.
Can spicy chips cause acid reflux and sore throat?
Yes, spicy chips and snacks containing chili, hot sauce, etc. are common triggers for acid reflux. When reflux occurs, stomach acid backs up into the throat and causes a burning pain. Avoiding spicy foods can help manage reflux and related sore throat.
How do you cure a sore throat caused by spicy food?
Drink cold milk, suck on ice chips, gargle salt water, eat soothing foods like ice cream, take OTC painkillers, or simply wait it out. These methods reduce inflammation in the throat from capsaicin irritation and provide numbing relief.
The Takeaway: Enjoy
Spice in Moderation
Spicy food lovers don’t need to give up the heat altogether. Just be mindful of overdoing it when your throat is already irritated.
Treat any underlying conditions first. Then add spicy foods back in slowly, coupled with milk and other soothing foods to balance the burn.
Most importantly, listen to your body. If a food consistently causes throat discomfort, avoid eating it until you feel 100%.
With some care and moderation, you can keep enjoying spicy snacks and hot sauce without inflaming a sore throat. The key is control the burn before it controls you!
- University of Alabama at Birmingham: When strep throat is something else: Forgotten bacterium is the cause of many severe sore throats in young adults
- Healthline: Sore Throat & Allergies: How They’re Linked, Treatment & More
- MedlinePlus: Esophageal pH Test
- Mayoclinic: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) – Diagnosis and Treatment
- Houston Methodist Leading Medicine: How to Cool Your Mouth Down After Eating Spicy Food
- Family Doctor: Sore Throat – How to Get Rid of a Sore Throat
- Cookingenie: Why Do We Love Spicy Food? The Science Behind the Heat