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The importance of keeping your throat healthy

                                   February 2010  


The important of keeping your throat healthy

throatsIt is a part of the body that most of us pay little attention to, yet our throat is incredibly important. We need our throat of course to ensure the food we eat reaches our stomach, the air that we breathe passes down to our lungs and we need our throat to help with our speech.

Medically, the throat is a general non-medical term associated with the frontal part of the neck and includes our pharynx and larynx. The pharynx is a hollow tube that starts behind the nose and goes down to the neck to become part of the oesophagus (the tube that goes to the stomach). Air, food and liquids pass through the pharynx on the way to the windpipe (trachea) or oesophagus.

The larynx comprises of muscles that help to adjust the length and tension of our vocal chords. The throat also contains the epiglottis, a vital aspect for everyone because this flap prevents us from inhaling food or drink.

Tonsils and adenoids which can cause specific problems are also associated with the throat area.

So all in all, the throat is really rather an important area – and certainly a lot more complex than a simple tube down! It is a finely tuned structure of tissues, nerves, glands and blood vessels and because of all this, it needs some consideration and also some looking after. If you over use some of the delicate organs and tissues of the throat, the effects can be very damaging.

Most people now know that cigarettes and cigarette smoke are very bad for the throat. Bacteria from our natural surroundings can also cause a lot of damage – most of us will have suffered from a sore throat at some time or other.

When the weather is particularly cold, it really is a good idea to keep the throat warm by wearing a scarf tucked up nice and snugly. Keeping the tissues in the throat warm helps ensure they are kept full of blood and fully oxygenated.

If someone you know has a sore throat, clearly don’t share any drinking glasses or utensils with them as there could be a high risk of cross infection.

Coughing can be very damaging to the sensitive tissues in your throat, and it is a good idea to try and suppress shallow throat coughs with medicine that you can buy over the counter. If it is a deep phlegmy cough, then of course seek your doctor’s advice.

Sometimes one can have a ticklish niggle in the throat for no apparent reason. The best cure is to drink plenty of fresh water; warm water can be very good in cold weather to help keep the throat area at a good temperature and fully oxygenated. Throat gargles might have the reputation of being old fashioned, but they are in fact very useful to help stop any niggle in the throat, and also as an early preventative cure against infection. Gargling a little salt mixed in tepid water (1/4 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup [8 ounces] of warm water) has been known to be beneficial for many generations; mixing honey with lemon in a little warm water for a gargle can also be useful. Today there is also a range of commercial gargles available at your chemist.

A common cold or an upper respiratory tract viral infection can result in laryngitis. This is when the vocal cords swell, preventing them from coming together properly which changes the voice. This can also be caused when you have overused your voice, maybe talking very loudly for some time at a party, doing a long drawn out speech or presentation, or even excited screaming at a sporting event or rock concert (yes, more and more 50 year olds plus go to rock concerts these days!).

Whatever the cause, laryngitis is quite common in varying degrees and the best treatment is to rest your voice and drink plenty of water or liquids. Humidifying your home can also help, and ensure you don’t dehydrate your body with too much caffeine or alcohol.

The throat can also be associated with snoring, tonsillitis and enlarged adenoids, and other problems. For a part of the body that we usually ignore, it really is incredibly important, so maybe it is time to give a little more thought to your throat.


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