Q: Does gargling with warm saltwater really help relieve sore throats? How about prevent them?
A: Many people find that a warm saltwater gargle does help soothe a sore throat, at least a little, though scientific proof is lacking. Gargling with any solution may temporarily relieve dryness and be soothing, but it won’t shorten the duration of your sore throat. A better way to keep your throat moist when you’re sick is to drink plenty of water and other fluids.
As for gargling as a preventive, research is limited. A Japanese study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine a decade ago found that a plain tap-water gargle, done at least three times a day for two months, reduced colds by 40 percent in healthy volunteers, compared to a group that didn’t gargle. And those who gargled and did catch a cold tended to have less severe bronchial symptoms.