Sore throats are very common and they are normally caused by a minor illness like a cold and can be treated at home.
In This Section
Common causes of a sore throat
- Colds or Flu can cause a sore throat. You might also have a high temperature (fever), headache, general body ache and a blocked or runny nose.
- Tonsillitis (Inflammation of the tonsils) will lead to a sore throat. Your tonsils will be red and you may have white spots on the tonsils, this can be very painful when swallowing.
- Laryngitis (Inflammation of the voice box) will cause a sore throat. This is associated with a dry cough; a hoarse voice and you may feel the need to clear your throat.
- Strep throat (a bacterial infection) may cause you to experience swollen glands in your neck and tonsillitis, which can cause a sore throat.
Less common causes of a sore throat
- Epiglottitis (Inflammation of the flap in the central, back of the throat). This pain can feel quite severe. If you develop breathing and swallowing difficulties, which can be associated with Epiglottitis see a Doctor as soon as possible.
- Quinsy (a collection of pus at the back of the throat). You may get severe pain, have difficulty swallowing and struggle to open your mouth
Please note that both of these conditions are serious and if you are experiencing either of these symptoms, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Treatment of a sore throat
- Take Ibuprofen or paracetamol (as long as you are not allergic to either of these drugs)
- Avoid hot drinks and drink plenty of cold fluids
- If hard food is too painful, try soft and cold foods
- Avoid smoky environments or smoking
- Gargle with salty water
- Suck throat sweets, ice cubes or lollies (young children should not be given these as it can increase the risk of choking)
- Pharmacists sell medicated lozenges and sprays – these will just help improve symptoms
- Antibiotics aren’t normally prescribed for a sore throat, as they are unlikely to make you feel better any quicker and they can cause side effects
When to see a doctor
- You often get sore throats
- Your sore throat does not improve after a week
- You have a weakened immune system. For example, because of HIV or chemotherapy
Things to remember
- A sore throat can be common and you do not usually need to get medical advice. It is very rare for a sore throat to develop into a serious problem
- Get emergency help if:
- Your symptoms are getting worse quickly
- You have difficulty breathing
- You start drooling
- You have difficulty swallowing
- You make a high pitched sound as you breathe
You can find out more about sore throats from the following NHS sources.
Word from our GP
Most sore throats clear up fairly quickly on their own.
The best thing you can do is drink plenty of fluids and use paracetamol if you feel under the weather.
Dr Justine Dawkins, Riversdale Surgery.