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Sore Throat

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)
  • tonsillitis
  • 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.


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