Sore throats are usually nothing to worry about and self resolve within a week. Most are caused by minor illnesses, such as cold and flu which can be managed at home with over the counter medications.
What causes a sore throat?
There often isn’t an obvious cause for a sore throat, but it is most commonly a symptom of a viral or bacterial infection including:
- cold or flu
- laryngitis (inflammation of the voice box)
- strep throat (a bacterial throat infection)
- glandular fever.
Sometimes it can be due to something irritating your throat such as acid reflux or allergies.
Less common but more serious causes include:
- Quinsy (a painful collection of pus or an abscess at the back of the throat) – you would have difficulty opening your mouth and problems swallowing which would cause you to dribble or drool.
- Epiglottis (inflammation of the flap of tissue at the back of the throat) – you would have severe pain and possible problems breathing and swallowing.
With any of these symptoms you should seek medical help urgently.
How can I treat a sore throat?
- Use simple pain relief such as paracetamol and ibuprofen to help soothe a sore throat.
- Ensure you are drinking plenty of warm fluids.
- Eat soft foods.
- Avoid smoking and smokey environments.
- Gargle with warm, salty water.
- Use lozenges, hard sweets, ice cubes and ice lollies to help with any discomfort.
- Antibiotics are NOT normally prescribed to treat sore throats, even if there is a bacterial infection. This is because they are unlikely to make you better any more quickly and often have unpleasant side effects.
When do I need to seek medical advice?
You don’t normally need to seek medical advice for your sore throat. However, you may need to seek advice if:
- your symptoms are severe
- your symptoms are persisting and are not starting to improve after a week
- you have frequent sore throat
- your immune system is suppressed either through illness or medical treatment.
Do I need to seek emergency help?
Only very rarely does a sore throat lead to an emergency situation – however if you have any of these symptoms you need to seek immediate help.
- Your symptoms are severe and getting worse very quickly.
- You have difficulty breathing.
- You are making a high pitched noise when you are breathing (stridor).
- You have problems swallowing and start drooling.