Try it when: It’s downright painful to swallow.
How it works: If you get to this point, see your doctor. He or she can test for more serious conditions, like strep throat, and give you a prescription for a lidocaine hydrochloride gargle. “This type of solution numbs the area for a longer time than over-the-counter medications,” says Tucker. Your doctor will advise you either to gargle with the straight liquid or mix it with water or other ingredients to make a mouthwash.
Good to know: Don’t eat or drink for 30 minutes after using a prescription gargle, because in addition to numbing your throat, it can also deaden the sensation in your tongue (and you don’t want to risk biting it).