On this page, when to see a doctor, risk factors.
A sore throat is pain, scratchiness or irritation of the throat that often worsens when you swallow. The most common cause of a sore throat (pharyngitis) is a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu. A sore throat caused by a virus resolves on its own.
Strep throat (streptococcal infection), a less common type of sore throat caused by bacteria, requires treatment with antibiotics to prevent complications. Other less common causes of sore throat might require more complex treatment.
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Symptoms of a sore throat can vary depending on the cause. Signs and symptoms might include:
- Pain or a scratchy sensation in the throat
- Pain that worsens with swallowing or talking
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sore, swollen glands in your neck or jaw
- Swollen, red tonsils
- White patches or pus on your tonsils
- A hoarse or muffled voice
The throat includes the esophagus; windpipe, also known as the trachea; voice box, also known as the larynx; tonsils; and epiglottis.
Infections causing a sore throat might result in other signs and symptoms, including:
- Nausea or vomiting
Take your child to a doctor if your child's sore throat doesn't go away with the first drink in the morning, recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Get immediate care if your child has severe signs and symptoms such as:
- Difficulty breathing
- Unusual drooling, which might indicate an inability to swallow
If you're an adult, see your doctor if you have a sore throat and any of the following associated problems, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery:
- A sore throat that is severe or lasts longer than a week
- Difficulty opening your mouth
- Fever higher than 101 F (38.3 C)
- Blood in your saliva or phlegm
- Frequently recurring sore throats
- A lump in your neck
- Hoarseness lasting more than two weeks
- Swelling in your neck or face
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Viruses that cause the common cold and the flu also cause most sore throats. Less often, bacterial infections cause sore throats.
Viral illnesses that cause a sore throat include:
- Common cold
- Flu (influenza)
- Mono (mononucleosis)
- Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- Croup — a common childhood illness characterized by a harsh, barking cough
Many bacterial infections can cause a sore throat. The most common is Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus) which causes strep throat.
Other causes of a sore throat include:
- Allergies. Allergies to pet dander, molds, dust and pollen can cause a sore throat. The problem may be complicated by postnasal drip, which can irritate and inflame the throat.
- Dryness. Dry indoor air can make your throat feel rough and scratchy. Breathing through your mouth — often because of chronic nasal congestion — also can cause a dry, sore throat.
- Irritants. Outdoor air pollution and indoor pollution such as tobacco smoke or chemicals can cause a chronic sore throat. Chewing tobacco, drinking alcohol and eating spicy foods also can irritate your throat.
- Muscle strain. You can strain muscles in your throat by yelling, talking loudly or talking for long periods without rest.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is a digestive system disorder in which stomach acids back up in the food pipe (esophagus).
Other signs or symptoms may include heartburn, hoarseness, regurgitation of stomach contents and the sensation of a lump in your throat.
HIV infection. A sore throat and other flu-like symptoms sometimes appear early after someone is infected with HIV.
Also, someone who is HIV-positive might have a chronic or recurring sore throat due to a fungal infection called oral thrush or due to a viral infection called cytomegalovirus (CMV), which can be serious in people with compromised immune systems.
- Tumors. Cancerous tumors of the throat, tongue or voice box (larynx) can cause a sore throat. Other signs or symptoms may include hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, noisy breathing, a lump in the neck, and blood in saliva or phlegm.
Rarely, an infected area of tissue (abscess) in the throat or swelling of the small cartilage "lid" that covers the windpipe (epiglottitis) can cause a sore throat. Both can block the airway, creating a medical emergency.
Although anyone can get a sore throat, some factors make you more susceptible, including:
- Age. Children and teens are most likely to develop sore throats. Children ages 3 to 15 are also more likely to have strep throat, the most common bacterial infection associated with a sore throat.
- Exposure to tobacco smoke. Smoking and secondhand smoke can irritate the throat. The use of tobacco products also increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, throat and voice box.
- Allergies. Seasonal allergies or ongoing allergic reactions to dust, molds or pet dander make developing a sore throat more likely.
- Exposure to chemical irritants. Particles in the air from burning fossil fuels and common household chemicals can cause throat irritation.
- Chronic or frequent sinus infections. Drainage from your nose can irritate your throat or spread infection.
- Close quarters. Viral and bacterial infections spread easily anywhere people gather, whether in child care centers, classrooms, offices or airplanes.
- Weakened immunity. You're more susceptible to infections in general if your resistance is low. Common causes of lowered immunity include HIV, diabetes, treatment with steroids or chemotherapy drugs, stress, fatigue, and poor diet.
The best way to prevent sore throats is to avoid the germs that cause them and practice good hygiene. Follow these tips and teach your child to do the same:
- Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the toilet, before and after eating, and after sneezing or coughing.
- Avoid touching your face. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoid sharing food, drinking glasses or utensils.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue and throw it away, and then wash your hands. When necessary, sneeze into your elbow.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers as an alternative to washing hands when soap and water aren't available.
- Avoid touching public phones or drinking fountains with your mouth.
- Regularly clean and disinfect phones, doorknobs, light switches, remotes and computer keyboards. When you travel, clean phones, light switches and remotes in your hotel room.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick or have symptoms.
Jun 10, 2021
- Sore throats. American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/content/sore-throats. Accessed Feb. 18, 2019.
- Sore throat. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/ear,-nose,-and-throat-disorders/approach-to-the-patient-with-nasal-and-pharyngeal-symptoms/sore-throat. Accessed Feb. 18, 2019.
- Seven tips to help you prevent a sore throat. American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. https://www.enthealth.org/be_ent_smart/seven-tips-to-help-you-prevent-a-sore-throat/. Accessed Feb. 18, 2019.
- Sore throat. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/sore-throat.html. Accessed Feb. 18, 2019.
- Drutz, JE. Sore throat in children and adolescents: Symptomatic treatment. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 18, 2019.
- Stead W. Symptomatic treatment of acute pharyngitis in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 18, 2019.
- Slippery Elm. Natural Medicines. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com. Accessed Feb. 22, 2019.
- Taking care of your voice. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/pages/takingcare.aspx. Accessed Feb. 18, 2019.
- Chow AW, et al. Evaluation of acute pharyngitis in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 20, 2019.
- Kellerman RD, et al. Pharyngitis. In: Conn's Current Therapy 2019. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2019. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 21, 2019.
- Common colds: Protect yourself and others. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/features/rhinoviruses/index.html. Accessed Feb. 22, 2019.
- AskMayoExpert. Streptococcal pharyngitis. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2018.
- Kahrilas, PJ. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 25, 2019.
- Gonzalez MD, et al. New developments in rapid diagnostic testing for children. Infectious Disease Clinics of North America. 2018;32:19.
- AIDS and opportunistic infections. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/livingwithhiv/opportunisticinfections.html. Accessed Feb. 26, 2019.
- Shelov SP, et al. Ears, Nose and Throat. In: Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. 6th ed. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books; 2014.
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Your throat is a tube that carries food to your esophagus and air to your windpipe and larynx (also called the voice box). The technical name for the throat is pharynx.
You can have a sore throat for many reasons. Often, colds and flu cause sore throats. Other causes can include:
- Strep throat
Treatment depends on the cause. Sucking on lozenges, drinking lots of liquids, and gargling may ease the pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers can also help, but children should not take aspirin.
- Sore Throat (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
- Sore Throat (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in Spanish
- Sore Throat: When to See a Doctor (American Osteopathic Association)
- Sore Throats (American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery)
- Sore Throat: Symptoms and Causes (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Throat Problems (Symptom Checker) (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
- Difference between a Sore Throat, Strep, and Tonsillitis (American Academy of Pediatrics) Also in Spanish
- Mouth Dryness or Thick Saliva (American Cancer Society) Also in Spanish
- Sore Throat: Diagnosis and Treatment (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Effect of Esketamine Gargle on Postoperative Sore Throat in Patients Undergoing...
- Article: Effects of ultrasound-guided stellate ganglion block on postoperative sore throat and...
- Article: Knowledge of recommended antibiotic treatments for community-acquired infections in general medical...
- Sore Throat -- see more articles
- American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery
- Find an ENT (American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery)
- Sore Throat (For Parents) (Nemours Foundation) Also in Spanish
- When a Sore Throat Is a More Serious Infection (American Academy of Pediatrics) Also in Spanish
- Pharyngitis - sore throat (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Pharyngitis - viral (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.
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What Is a Sore Throat?
Frequently asked questions.
- Next in Sore Throat Guide Symptoms of Sore Throat
A sore throat, often called pharyngitis by medical professionals, is often caused by inflammation and swelling of throat (pharyngeal) tissues due to infection or inflammation.
Viral infections such as colds or flu are the most common causes , but there can be others, such as acid reflux , allergies, and overuse of the vocal cords. Most often, viral sore throats need only soothing until they pass, but other causes, such as strep throat , require treatment to prevent related complications.
Sore Throat Symptoms
Most people with sore throats have other symptoms as well. Depending on the cause, you may experience symptoms from pain and scratchiness to swelling and difficulty swallowing. The pain and discomfort may occur only when you swallow or it may be continuous.
The other symptoms that accompany a sore throat can help you decide whether or not to call your healthcare provider. They can also help a healthcare provider get to the root of the problem.
Even with no other symptoms, if your throat is so sore that you can't swallow or sleep, seek medical attention.
When To See a Healthcare Provider
- Fever greater than 101 degrees
- Difficulty breathing, swallowing or opening your mouth
- Lump in your neck
- Hoarseness lasting more than two weeks
- Blood in mouth or sputum
- Throat so sore you can't swallow or sleep
Causes of Sore Throat
The most common causes of a sore throat are viral infections including the common cold , group A Streptococcus bacteria (strep throat), and mononucleosis . In young children, Coxsackie virus and herpangina are two other viral causes.
Strep throat is the cause of sore throats up to a third of the time in school-age children, and 10% of the time in adults and younger children. This condition is caused by bacteria and needs to be treated with antibiotics to prevent serious complications.
Strep throat usually doesn't have other respiratory symptoms such as nasal drainage, cough, or congestion, but it does cause fever. You can see your healthcare provider for a rapid strep test or a throat culture if this is suspected.
You may also experience a sore throat with allergies, post-nasal drip , overuse of the vocal cords , and smoking . Acid reflux can cause a sore throat when stomach acid enters the esophagus and irritates the tissues.
Environmental irritants such as smoke, air pollution, and industrial fumes can also irritate your throat. Dry air itself can cause a dry and scratchy throat.
If what's causing the sore throat itself can be addressed, that will be the primary focus of sore throat treatment .
For instance, when a bacterial infection such as strep throat is identified, antibiotics such as penicillin and amoxicillin are used to rid your body of the infection, in turn resolving your sore throat.
If a bacterial infection or other treatable health issue is not to blame, treating sore throat for comfort is all that can be done. That's the case with many causes, including the common cold and other viral infections.
You can use home remedies (such as drinking some sage tea) and over-the-counter pain medications , such as Advil (ibuprofen) and Tylenol (acetaminophen), to ease sore throat pain . Unfortunately, though, waiting it out is usually what's most effective.
Tips for Soothing a Sore Throat
- Humidify the air by using either warm-mist or cool-mist humidifiers, or by boiling water.
- Mix honey in with your favorite tea; it can coat the throat and act as a lubricant.
- Gargle with salt water: 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 cup of water is a common mixture.
- Suck on lozenges or hard candies.
There are not many high-quality studies that have supported the use of alternative therapies . Sage, slippery elm, and licorice root may be found in some herbal teas and lozenges and are believed, though not proven, to have soothing effects. Always discuss herbal medications and supplements with your healthcare provider, as some may interact with other medications.
If your sore throat worsens or continues to progress after five to seven days, see a healthcare provider for further evaluation.
What's causing your sore throat may not be what you originally thought.
A Word From Verywell
While painful, sore throats will usually go away on their own. Stay alert for signs of fever so you can call your healthcare provider when it is appropriate. With some soothing measures the pain will pass and you'll be able to breathe (and swallow) easier.
Follow your healthcare provider's treatment recommendations to clear up your sore throat as fast as possible. Take any medications your provider recommends as prescribed. If you are not prescribed medication, you may only be able to ease your sore throat pain with at-home treatments until the underlying cause is resolved. Honey and lozenges are common remedies.
In most cases, sore throat should start to get better within five to seven days. If it doesn't resolve by then (or it gets worse), reach out to your healthcare provider for an evaluation.
It's possible to have a sore throat and not be sick. Sore throat can happen if the air is especially dry or if environmental pollutants like smoke or industrial fumes irritate your throat. Allergies can cause you to have a sore throat as well.
Parmet S, Lynm C, Glass RM. JAMA patient page. Sore throat . JAMA. 2004;291(13):1664. doi:10.1001/jama.291.13.1664
Stead W, Aronson M, Bond S. Patient education: Sore throat in adults (Beyond the Basics) . UpToDate. Jun 3, 2019.
Renner B, Mueller CA, Shephard A. Environmental and non-infectious factors in the aetiology of pharyngitis (sore throat) . Inflamm Res. 2012;61(10):1041-52. doi:10.1007/s00011-012-0540-9
- Sore Throats . American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/content/sore-throats.
- Pelucchi C, Grigoryan L, Galeone C, et al. Guideline for the Management of Acute Sore Throat . Clinical Microbiology and Infection . 2012;18:1-27. doi:10.1111/j.1469-0691.2012.03766.x.
- Stead W. Patient Education: Sore Throat in Adults (Beyond the Basics) . UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/sore-throat-in-adults-beyond-the-basics#H5.
By Kristin Hayes, RN Kristin Hayes, RN, is a registered nurse specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders for both adults and children.
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Sore throats are very common and usually nothing to worry about. They normally get better by themselves within a week.
How to treat a sore throat yourself
To help soothe a sore throat and shorten how long it lasts, you can:
- gargle with warm, salty water (children should not try this)
- drink plenty of water
- eat cool or soft foods
- avoid smoking or smoky places
- suck ice cubes, ice lollies or hard sweets – but do not give young children anything small and hard to suck because of the risk of choking
- Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water (warm water helps salt dissolve).
- Gargle with the solution, then spit it out (do not swallow it).
- Repeat as often as you like.
Video: how to treat a sore throat
This video shows you how to treat a sore throat.
A pharmacist can help with sore throats
You can ask a pharmacist about ways of relieving the pain and discomfort of a sore throat, such as:
- paracetamol or ibuprofen
- medicated lozenges containing a local anaesthetic, antiseptic, or anti-inflammatory medicine
- anaesthetic spray (although there's little proof they help)
You can buy these treatments from a supermarket or from a pharmacist without a prescription.
You do not normally need antibiotics for a sore throat because they will not usually relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery.
They'll only be prescribed if a GP thinks you could have a bacterial infection.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- your sore throat does not improve after a week
- you often get sore throats
A severe or long-lasting sore throat could be something like strep throat (a bacterial throat infection).
Urgent advice: Get advice from 111 now if:
- you're worried about your sore throat
- you have a sore throat and a very high temperature, or you feel hot and shivery
- you have a weakened immune system – for example, because of diabetes or chemotherapy
Immediate action required: Call 999 if:
You or your child:
- have difficulty breathing or are unable to swallow
- are drooling – this can be a sign of not being able to swallow
- are making a high-pitched sound as you breathe (called stridor)
- have severe symptoms and are getting worse quickly
Sore throat symptoms
If you have a sore throat you might have:
- a painful throat, especially when swallowing
- a dry, scratchy throat
- redness in the back of your mouth
- a mild cough
- swollen neck glands
The symptoms are similar for children, but children can also get a temperature and appear less active.
Causes of sore throats
Sore throats are usually caused by viruses (like cold or flu) or from smoking. Very occasionally they can be caused by bacteria.
A sore throat can also be caused by:
- strep throat (a bacterial throat infection)
- glandular fever
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Page last reviewed: 05 February 2021 Next review due: 05 February 2024
Is it painful to swallow? Or is your throat scratchy? A virus may be causing your sore throat.
Most sore throats, except for strep throat, do not need antibiotics.
Causes of sore throat include:
- Viruses, like those that cause colds or flu
- The bacteria group A strep, which causes strep throat (also called streptococcal pharyngitis)
- Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
Of these, infections from viruses are the most common cause of sore throats.
Strep throat is an infection in the throat and tonsils caused by bacteria. These bacteria are called group A Streptococcus (also called Streptococcus pyogenes ).
- Symptoms of Sore Throat
A sore throat can make it painful to swallow. A sore throat can also feel dry and scratchy. Sore throat can be a symptom of strep throat, the common cold, allergies, or other upper respiratory tract illness. Sore throat caused by a virus or the bacteria called group A Streptococcus can have similar symptoms.
Sometimes the following symptoms suggest a virus is causing the illness instead of Strep throat:
- Hoarseness (changes in your voice that makes it sound breathy, raspy, or strained)
- Conjunctivitis (also called pink eye )
- Symptoms of Strep Throat
In general, strep throat is a mild disease, but it can be very painful.
Common symptoms may include:
- Pain when swallowing
- Sore throat that can start very quickly and may look red
- Red and swollen tonsils
- White patches or streaks of pus on the tonsils
- Tiny, red spots on the roof of the mouth, called petechiae
- Swollen lymph nodes in the front of the neck
The following symptoms suggest a virus is causing the illness instead of strep throat:
- When to Seek Medical Care
Talk to your doctor if you or your child have symptoms of sore throat. They may need to test you or your child for strep throat.
Also see a doctor if you or your child have any of the following:
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Blood in saliva or phlegm
- Excessive drooling (in young children)
- Joint swelling and pain
This list is not all-inclusive. Please see your doctor for any symptom that is severe or concerning.
See a doctor if symptoms do not improve within a few days or get worse. Tell your doctor if you or your child have recurrent sore throats.
A doctor will determine what type of illness you have by asking about symptoms and doing a physical examination. Sometimes they will also swab your throat.
How to Feel Better
Over-the-counter medicine and children.
A virus causes the most common type of sore throat and is not strep throat.
- Only 3 in 10 children with a sore throat have strep throat.
- Only about 1 in 10 adults with a sore throat has strep throat.
A healthy throat and a sore throat, including uvula and tongue, showing inflamed tonsils.
More about scarlet fever strep throat
Talk to a healthcare professional right away if your child is under 3 months old with a fever of 100.4 °F (38 °C) or higher.
Virus or Bacteria What’s got you sick?
More about rheumatic fever
Since bacteria cause strep throat, antibiotics are needed to treat the infection and prevent rheumatic fever and other complications. A doctor cannot tell if someone has strep throat just by looking in the throat. If your doctor thinks you might have strep throat, they can test you to determine if it is causing your illness.
Anyone with strep throat should stay home from work, school, or daycare until they no longer have fever AND have taken antibiotics for at least 12 hours.
If a virus causes a sore throat, antibiotics will not help. Most sore throats will get better on their own within one week. Your doctor may prescribe other medicine or give you tips to help you feel better.
More about antibiotic-resistant infections C. diff
When antibiotics aren’t needed, they won’t help you, and their side effects could still cause harm. Side effects can range from mild reactions, like a rash, to more serious health problems. These problems can include severe allergic reactions, antibiotic-resistant infections and C. diff infection. C. diff causes diarrhea that can lead to severe colon damage and death.
Some ways you can feel better when you have a sore throat:
- Suck on ice chips, popsicles, or lozenges (do not give lozenges to children younger than 2 years).
- Use a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer.
- Gargle with salt water.
- Drink warm beverages and plenty of fluids.
- Use honey to relieve cough for adults and children at least 1 year of age or older.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist about over-the-counter medicines that can help you feel better. Always use over-the-counter medicines as directed.
Carefully read and follow instructions on over-the-counter medicine product labels before giving medicines to children. Some over-the-counter medicines are not recommended for children of certain ages.
- Children younger than 6 months: only give acetaminophen.
- Children 6 months or older: it is OK to give acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- Never give aspirin to children because it can cause Reye’s syndrome. Reye’s syndrome is a very serious, but rare illness that can harm the liver and brain.
- Children younger than 4 years old: do not use over-the-counter cough and cold medicines in young children unless a doctor specifically tells you to. Cough and cold medicines can result in serious and sometimes life-threatening side effects in young children.
- Children 4 years or older: discuss with your child’s doctor if over-the-counter cough and cold medicines are safe to give to your child.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the right dosage of over-the-counter medicines for your child’s age and size. Also, tell your child’s doctor and pharmacist about all prescription and over-the-counter medicines they are taking.
You can help prevent sore throats by doing your best to stay healthy and keep others healthy, including:
- Clean your hands .
- Avoid close contact with people who have sore throats, colds, or other upper respiratory infections.
- Don’t smoke and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
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Self Help Guide
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Sore throats are very common and usually nothing to worry about. They normally get better within a week.
Most are caused by minor illnesses such as cold or flu and can be treated at home.
Treatments for a sore throat
There are things you can do to help soothe a sore throat.
- take ibuprofen or paracetamol – paracetamol is better for children and for people who can’t take ibuprofen (children under 16 should never take aspirin)
- drink plenty of cool or warm fluids, and avoid very hot drinks
- eat cool, soft foods
- avoid smoking and smoky places
- suck lozenges, hard sweets, ice cubes or ice lollies – but don’t give young children anything small and hard to suck because of the risk of choking
- gargle with a homemade mouthwash of warm, salty water (children should not try this)
- Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water (warm water helps salt dissolve).
- Gargle with the solution, then spit it out (do not swallow it).
- Repeat as often as you like.
There are also products such as medicated lozenges and sprays sold in pharmacies that you may want to try. There isn’t much scientific evidence to suggest they help, although some people find them worth using.
Antibiotics aren’t usually prescribed for a sore throat, even if it’s caused by a bacterial infection. They’re unlikely to make you feel better any quicker and they have unpleasant side effects .
Sore throat self-help guide
Complete our self-help guide to check your symptoms and find out what to do next.
When do get professional advice
Go to a&e or phone 999 if:.
You or your child have:
- symptoms that are severe or getting worse quickly
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
- severe pain
- started drooling
- a muffled voice
- a high-pitched sound as you breathe (stridor)
If you have a sore throat, you can get advice and treatment directly from a pharmacy.
You don’t usually need to get medical advice if you have a sore throat. Your pharmacist may advise you to see your GP if:
- your symptoms are severe – for example with a high temperature or you feel shivery
- you have persistent symptoms that haven’t started to improve after a week
- you experience severe sore throats frequently
- you have a weak immune system – for example, you have HIV , are having chemotherapy , or are taking medication that suppresses your immune system
If your GP practice is closed, phone 111 .
If you have a persistent sore throat (one that lasts 3 to 4 weeks), you should see your GP who may refer you for further tests. This is because your sore throat may be a symptom of a more serious condition.
Causes of a sore throat
The cause of a sore throat isn’t always obvious. But in most cases it’s a symptom of a viral or bacterial infection.
A sore throat is often a symptom of:
- colds or flu – you may also have a blocked or runny nose, a cough , a high temperature (fever), a headache and general aches
- laryngitis (inflammation of the voice box) – you may also have a hoarse voice, a dry cough and a constant need to clear your throat
- tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils) – you may also have red or spotty tonsils, discomfort when swallowing and a fever
- strep throat (a bacterial throat infection) – you may also have swollen glands in your neck, discomfort when swallowing and tonsillitis
- glandular fever – you may also feel very tired, have a fever and swollen glands in your neck
It may also be caused by something irritating your throat. For example, smoke, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (where acid leaks up from the stomach) and allergies .
Less common causes
Less often, a sore throat can be a sign of:
- a painful collection of pus at the back of the throat (quinsy) – the pain may be severe and you may also have difficulty opening your mouth or difficulty swallowing
- inflammation of the flap of tissue at the back of the throat (epiglottitis) – the pain may be severe and you may have difficulty breathing and difficulty swallowing
These conditions are more serious and should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible.
Source: NHS 24 - Opens in new browser window
Last updated: 26 May 2023
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- A sore throat, or pharyngitis, is when the throat is red, swollen and painful, especially when you swallow.
- The most common cause of a sore throat is a virus, but some sore throats are caused by the bacteria streptococcus pyogenes — this is a 'group A streptococcus ', sometimes called 'strep A'.
- There is no way to cure a sore throat that is caused by a virus.
- If the sore throat is caused by bacteria, you may benefit from antibiotics.
- Sometimes, when the sore throat is caused by strep A, complications can occur, including an abscess at the back of your throat, rheumatic fever and problems with your kidneys.
What is a sore throat?
A sore throat, or pharyngitis, is when your throat is red, swollen and painful, especially when you swallow. It happens when the back of the throat, called the pharynx, is inflamed.
What are the symptoms of a sore throat?
A sore throat is pain or a scratchy sensation in the throat which may worsen with swallowing or talking. It may be difficult to swallow. The throat might also be red, with white patches or streaks of pus. If your sore throat is caused by a cold virus, you may also have a runny nose, cough, possibly fever and feel very tired.
If your sore throat is caused by an infection with streptococcal bacteria , other symptoms may include:
- swollen lymph nodes (glands) in the neck
- swollen red tonsils
- abdominal (tummy) pain
A sore throat is one of the symptoms of COVID-19 . Even if your symptoms are mild, get tested for COVID-19 immediately — use the colds and flu Symptom Checker if you're not sure what to do.
What causes a sore throat?
The most common cause of a sore throat is an infection from a virus, such as a cold or the flu , COVID-19 or glandular fever .
Less than 1 in 3 sore throats is caused by a bacterial infection. Some sore throats are caused by the bacteria streptococcus pyogenes (strep A) . This is sometimes called ' strep throat '. If your sore throat is caused by bacteria, you may feel very unwell.
Sometimes a sore throat can be caused by tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils), mouth ulcers or allergies .
Sore throats and children
Sore throats are very common in children. They are usually caused by a virus. Your child may also have a runny rose, cough, sore ears, a fever, feel tired and eat less food.
It is more likely to be strep throat if your child is older than 3 years and if they have swollen glands in their neck, swollen red tonsils with white spots, a rash and vomiting.
If your child is 5 years or younger, you can also call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 for advice, support and guidance from our maternal child health nurses.
When should I see my doctor?
Usually, sore throats go away without treatment in 2 to 7 days. You should see your doctor if you:
- have trouble breathing, or have fast, noisy breathing
- have a stiff or swollen neck (rather than throat pain)
- have a rash that does not fade when the skin is pressed
- are very drowsy
- have cold or discoloured hands and/or feet, with a warm body
- have pain in your arms and/or legs
- your lips, or the skin around your lips, are an unusual colour (pale or blue)
You should see your doctor if your child:
- has a sore throat lasting longer than 2 days
- is drinking poorly, longer than 1 day
- has difficulty swallowing
- is snoring more when they're asleep
- has large tender lumps in their neck
- has a new skin rash, or bruising
- has ear pain
CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the colds and flu Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.
How is a sore throat diagnosed?
If you or your child has a sore throat and you are worried about the symptoms, see your doctor.
The doctor will look at your throat with a torch and feel your neck for swollen glands. They may take a throat swab to try and find the cause of infection. Swabs can test for a range of viruses and bacteria .
How is a sore throat treated?
There is no way to cure a sore throat caused by a virus. The sore throat should clear up in 2 to 7 days. In the meantime, you can ease the symptoms by taking pain relief medicine .
Adults and children older than one month can take paracetamol , and adults and children older than 3 months can take ibuprofen . Do not give aspirin to children under 16 years.
If the sore throat is caused by bacteria, you may benefit from antibiotics .
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has developed a guide which can be used with your doctor to help you decide whether to use antibiotics when you or your child has a sore throat.
Sore throat remedies and self-care
Over-the-counter medicines might help, such as lozenges or throat gargles that contain local anaesthetic. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is best to avoid products that contain iodine. Your pharmacist can give you more information.
You can try self-care remedies that may help you feel better, such as:
- staying well hydrated by drinking plenty of water
- drinking hot water with honey and lemon
- gargling with warm salty water
- eating soft foods like yoghurt, soup, ice cream, ice blocks or jelly
- avoiding foods that cause pain when you swallow
If you have an existing medical condition, check with your doctor about how much water and fluid is right for you.
Smoking or breathing in other people's smoke can make symptoms worse. Try to avoid being around people who are smoking. If you are a smoker, try to cut down or quit . For advice on quitting smoking, visit the Quit Now website.
Find out more about self-care tips on what to do if you have a high temperature (fever).
Can a sore throat be prevented?
Sore throats are very common and can't always be prevented. You can help prevent sore throats by doing your best to stay healthy, including:
- washing your hands well and often
- covering your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing
- keeping people with strep throat, out of school, childcare and work until they have been taking antibiotics for 24 hours and feel well
- not sharing eating utensils, food or drinks
- throwing away used tissues appropriately
Complications of a sore throat
Most sore throats go away without treatment and don't cause complications. Sometimes, when the sore throat is caused by strep A, complications can occur.
One complication is an abscess (a pocket of pus), which develops next to the tonsils or in the back of the throat
Another complication is rheumatic fever . Rheumatic fever can develop after the sore throat has gone away. You may have fever, joint pain, rash, inflammation of the heart and other symptoms.
You may also develop problems with your kidney after having a strep infection.
Resources and support
To find out more information on the signs, causes, diagnosis and treatment of sore throats, visit:
- SA Health – for information on the treatment and prevention of streptococcal sore throat.
- The Sydney's Children Hospital Network – for tips on what to do when your child complains of a sore throat.
Call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria) for more information and advice. A registered nurse is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you have a young child with a sore throat, Pregnancy, Birth and Baby's video call service allows you to speak face-to-face with a maternal child health nurse.
Video call is a free service and is available from 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week (including public holidays).
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content .
Last reviewed: June 2023
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What is a sore throat?
A sore throat is pain, discomfort, or irritation in the throat that makes it painful to swallow. Sore throats are common.
What causes a sore throat?
Most sore throats are caused by viruses, but throats can also become sore as a result of:
- Bacterial infections, such as Strep throats
- Air conditioning
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- HIV infection
- Smoke, pollution, or other air irritants
- Yelling, talking, or singing too much.
Sometimes it is easy to identify the cause. Viral sore throats are generally accompanied by cold symptoms, such as a runny nose, watery eyes, or a cough. Sore throats caused by pollutants generally get better once the person extracts themselves from the cause - whether it be smoking or bad air.
Bacterial sore throats tend to come on quickly and are more likely to affect children rather than adults. They are common in children aged five to fifteen years, but rare in children under the age of three and have a higher chance of complications and generally require more attention than other sore throat causes. Although many different types of bacteria can cause a sore throat, Streptococcus pyrogenes bacteria, a type of Group A streptococci, are the most seen. Sore throats caused by S. pyrogenes are referred to as Strep throats.
What are the symptoms of a sore throat?
Symptoms of a sore throat can vary depending on the cause and may include:
- Pain or a burning sensation in the back of the throat
- Difficulty swallowing or increased pain when swallowing
- Red, swollen tonsils
- Swollen and sore glands in the neck or jaw
- White patches or pus on the tonsils.
If an infection is the cause of the sore throat, other symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, or headache may also be present.
Generally, Strep sore throats tend to be very painful and symptoms persist for a lot longer than sore throats due to a virus or another cause. Swallowing may be particularly difficult.
Other symptoms that are more likely to occur with a Strep throat include:
- A very red and swollen-looking throat and tonsils; sometimes streaks of pus or red spots on the roof of the mouth are visible
- Fever and Chills
- Swollen and tender glands (lymph nodes) in the neck
- Vomiting or nausea (mostly in children).
Some people are susceptible to the toxins (poisons) produced by the S. pyrogenes bacteria and develop a bright red rash that feels like sandpaper to the touch. A rash caused by S. pyrogenes bacteria is known as Scarlet Fever (also called scarlatina). Scarlet fever is more likely to develop in children over the age of three at preschool or people exposed to overcrowded environments such as boarding schools or military camps.
Rheumatic fever can also develop following a Strep throat infection or scarlet fever. Rheumatic fever has the potential to cause life-long cardiac problems if not treated promptly or properly and it can also affect the joints, skin, and the brain.
Symptoms of rheumatic fever include:
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain or shortness of breath
- Joint swelling, pain, redness, or warmth
- Nose bleeds
- A rash on the upper part of the arms or legs (usually ring-shaped or snake-like
- Skin nodules or lumps.
In young children, symptoms may include unusual crying or laughing or quick jerky movements of the face, hands, or feet.
How is a sore throat diagnosed?
See your doctor if your child has a persistent sore throat or for adults, if a sore throat lasts for longer than two days, is very painful, or you can see white patches or pus on the back of the throat. Other reasons to see your doctor include a fine sandpaper-like pink rash on your skin or difficulty breathing or swallowing.
Your doctor will examine your neck and lymph nodes and may take a swab of your throat if Strep throat is suspected.
How is a sore throat treated?
Sore throats caused by a viral infection or pollutants don’t usually require medical treatment although sucking lozenges can help ease the pain.
Treatments for a sore throat may include:
- Anesthetic, anti-inflammatory, or antiseptic lozenges
- Oral pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Antibiotics, if a Strep throat is diagnosed
- Saltwater gargles
- Lemon and honey warm drinks, tea
- Cool liquids or ice blocks to help numb the throat
- Apple cider vinegar
- Marshmallow root
- Slippery elm.
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Sore, Scratchy Throat?
Soothing Pain From Illness or Allergy
It’s a familiar sensation as the days grow shorter and colder: a scratchy, painful feeling when you swallow, talk, or even just breathe. Sometimes, a sore throat is little more than a nuisance. But it can also be a sign of serious infection. So how do you know which is which? And what can you do to soothe a sore throat?
Many things can trigger a sore throat, explains Dr. Alison Han, an infectious disease expert at the NIH Clinical Center. “It can be an allergen Substance that produces an allergic reaction when a person comes in contact with them, like pollen or dust. . It can be an infection, like a virus or bacteria. Sometimes, it’s even just dry air,” she says.
So, when should you call your health care provider? That depends on how bad the sore throat is and what symptoms come with it, Han explains. “If it’s a mild sore throat and a runny nose, some congestion, that’s probably a typical cold,” she says. But severe pain plus symptoms like a high fever and a loss of interest in eating or drinking may be serious.
How long a sore throat lasts also matters. “If it’s been more than three days, then you might want to seek medical advice,” Han says. “But at any time, it’s always reasonable to call your doctor and get an opinion.”
A very contagious bacterial infection called strep can cause a sore throat, high fever, and swollen glands. Children may also have nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain. Strep can cause other serious health problems. So it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible if you think someone in your household has strep.
If test results confirm strep, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. Even if you feel better after a few days, it’s important to finish the entire prescription. Most causes of a sore throat, though, don’t need antibiotics. These include allergies as well as colds, flu, COVID-19, and RSV, which are all caused by viruses. Antibiotics only work against bacteria. Doctors can sometimes prescribe antiviral medication for certain viruses, like flu or COVID-19.
There is no treatment for the common cold, but over-the-counter products for symptom relief may help. For example, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin (not for kids) can reduce pain. Mild allergies can be treated using over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, or nasal sprays. But you may need prescription medication or allergy shots for severe allergies.
A sore throat is a common symptom for the current variants of COVID-19. “If you have a sore throat and some other cold-like symptoms, it’s reasonable to do a COVID-19 test,” Han says. This can help you stop spreading the disease to others.
For most causes of a sore throat, time is the best healer. Lozenges, lollipops, or other hard candies can help soothe your throat. Experts now recommend that children under the age of 4 don’t use any over-the-counter cold and cough medications.
For young kids who might choke on candy, cold liquids or popsicles can help numb the pain. See the Wise Choices box for other tips.
The best way to prevent a sore throat is to avoid the germs that cause them. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often. Steer clear of other people who are sick. And stay up to date with the vaccines recommended for your age group, including flu, COVID-19, and RSV. “These shots can help protect ourselves and our loved ones,” Han says.
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The Best Foods to Eat When You Have a Sore Throat, and What to Avoid
Experts explain what foods will soothe your throat when you’re sick, and what foods might make it worse.
What foods and drinks should you avoid when your throat is sore?
How else can you treat a sore throat, when should you see a doctor about your sore throat.
Having a sore throat can be bothersome at best. At worst, it can really ruin your day, as well as your appetite. Turns out, there are some preferable foods for sore throat that may bring you some much-needed relief. And while cough drops and various OTC sore throat remedies might do the trick from time to time, food is almost always the best medicine.
So, there are some foods and beverages you should keep in mind when it comes to your achy throat. But perhaps even more importantly, there are some things that might sound appetizing, but may make your sore throat even more bothersome than before. Rest assured—we’re here to tell you what’s what.
We’ve consulted nutritionists and primary care physicians alike to find out exactly what you should eat when your throat is hurting and what you should exclude from your meals until you’re feeling better. Plus, when food isn’t enough, we’ll let you know when you should see a doctor about your sore throat, too.
What foods and drinks should you have when your throat is sore?
When your throat is sore, it’s best to eat soft foods that are easy to swallow and soothe the irritation, says Rachel Begun, M.S., R.D.N. , registered dietitian as well as leadership development coach and culture consultant.
Warm liquids can help soothe a sore throat, and foods with a softer texture often feel better on an irritated throat, adds V. Peter DeMarco, M.D. , primary care physician at Columbia University. “Cool liquids, iced food and drinks can also help to calm a sore throat.”
Both Dr. DeMarco and Begun agree that tea with honey is a great option for soothing discomfort .
Here’s a list of some good foods for sore throats, according to both Dr. DeMarco and Begun:
- Warm cereals like oatmeal, grits or cream of rice
- Cooked, mashed or pureed vegetables
- Scrambled eggs
- Tea (with or without honey)
Avoid foods and liquids that may irritate your throat if you already have a sore throat, says Dr. DeMarco. “Spicy foods, and foods with a harder texture can be bothersome to swallow.” He adds that “alcohol and other acidic food and drink can also further irritate a sore throat.
Here’s a list of some foods to avoid for sore throats, according to both Dr. DeMarco and Begun:
- Spices and seasonings
- Crunchy snack foods like potato chips, tortilla chips and crackers
- Raw vegetables
- Acidic fruits
- Acidic beverages such as coffee and sodas
- Greasy foods
Although food can cure many things, we know that what you eat may not always be the remedy you’re looking for when you need relief fast.
Gargling with warm water and salt a few times a day, sucking on lozenges and throat sprays are all ways to ease the pain and irritation of your sore throat, says Begun. “Just be sure that any lozenges or sprays are clear of any ingredients that may interfere with medicines you are taking or allergens you react to.”
Dr. DeMarco adds that “acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help with discomfort while recovering from a sore throat.” Menthol or benzocaine lozenges, cough drops, and throat sprays can help with symptomatic relief, too, he adds. Lastly, “using a humidifier , especially while sleeping may also be helpful,” he says.
It’s also important to keep in mind that smoke can irritate an already sore throat, avoid smoking and smokers as best as you can, says Dr. DeMarco. “Staying home and resting as best as is practical should help speed recovery from a sore throat. Be sure to hydrate and rest your voice from activities like prolonged talking and shouting.”
When the sore throat symptoms aren’t going away, the symptoms can’t be explained, or you have a fever for an extended period of time, it’s time to see a doctor, says Begun.
Anytime you have difficulty swallowing or your sore throat is causing you shortness of breath, you should see a doctor immediately, says Dr. DeMarco. “Additionally seek care if you notice neck swelling, swollen glands in your neck, or white patches in the back of your throat.” When a sore throat is associated with fevers, chills, or lightheadedness, Dr. DeMarco adds that these symptoms should also be a sign to be evaluated by a medical professional.
Madeleine, Prevention ’s assistant editor, has a history with health writing from her experience as an editorial assistant at WebMD, and from her personal research at university. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience—and she helps strategize for success across Prevention ’s social media platforms.
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- Ear, Nose, Throat
11 Top Foods to Eat With a Sore Throat
They can ease the pain—and boost your immune system, too.
While you may not feel like eating much of anything when you have a sore throat, some foods to eat with a sore throat include vegetable broth, eggs, yogurt, and oatmeal.
These and other choices—including drinks—are all soothing, easy to swallow, and rich in nutrients. Here's what else you need to know, including foods and drinks to avoid, other sore throat remedies, and when to see a healthcare provider.
1. All-Fruit Popsicles
The ice-cold feel of a tasty ice pop can offer immediate relief for a sore throat. However, you'll want to look for brands with pureed fruit or juice only.
Many pre-made options are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup or other added sugars and unwanted additives, like artificial colors and flavors. While these other ingredients may not always affect a sore throat directly, it's best to consume them in moderation.
You can make ice pops in BPA-free molds with antioxidant-rich fruits like blueberries, pomegranate juice, and cherries. You could also include vegetables by blending leafy greens or spinach with green fruit, like kiwi.
2. Chamomile Tea
Steep a bag of chamomile tea in a cup of hot water the next time you have a sore throat. In addition to providing anti-inflammatory compounds, chamomile can help people fall asleep fast. Some evidence has suggested that postpartum females who drank chamomile tea before bed had better sleep quality than those who didn't.
Sleep is especially vital when you're sick. Sleep allows your body to rest while fighting off the bacteria or viruses that make you feel ill. If you don't get enough sleep, the number of natural killer (NK) cells decreases. NK cells play a role in reducing your risk for illnesses like viral infections.
Several nutrients can help your immune system, including vitamins A, C, D, and E, selenium, and zinc. Eggs are an option that has a few of those nutrients. One whole egg—the yolk and the egg white—contains vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, and selenium.
If you're looking for a way to eat eggs, try them scrambled. Scrambled eggs are a soft option and easy on the throat.
Fresh ginger root is a potent antioxidant. The health-promoting benefits of ginger also include anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects. Peel, grate, and add ginger to your:
- Chamomile tea with honey
- Homemade fruit pops
- Mashed sweet potato
If a cough accompanies your sore throat, honey can help. The sweet stuff may be practical as a cough suppressant medication. Additionally, honey exerts antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Look for organic, raw honey or Manuka honey , which hails from New Zealand with incredibly potent antibiotic qualities. Add honey to your chamomile tea or oatmeal, drizzle over mashed sweet potato, whip into smoothies—or lick it right off the spoon.
6. Mashed Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes provide two essential immune-supporting nutrients: vitamins A and C. Both of those vitamins are antioxidants that protect cells against aging and disease.
Sweet potatoes are also full of anti-inflammatory compounds. Research has found that those root vegetables, mainly purple ones, exhibit anti-inflammatory activities. Plus, the mashed texture is soothing for a sore throat.
Mix cinnamon with maple syrup or honey. Then, fold into the mash or blend both with a few water-soaked dates, almond flour, and maple syrup to make a nutritious "pudding."
Oats are a grain that's filling and easy to digest. Also, the antioxidants and magnesium in oats help curb inflammation, while zinc supports immunity and healing. Research has found that polyphenols in oats possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Like broth, oats offer a base you can blend with other healthful ingredients, like a mashed banana. A terrific add-in due to its mushy texture, bananas also have vitamin C and other antioxidants that add a nutritional boost.
You can also stir in honey, ginger, and cinnamon. Enjoy warm oats mixed with hot water, soak in almond milk with pureed fruit and spices overnight, and eat chilled.
A smoothie can quickly become a complete meal. If you choose your ingredients well, smoothies can provide healthy protein, good fat, and nutrient-rich carbohydrates, in addition to vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
If your appetite is poor, a smoothie or two per day can help you meet overall nutrient needs and simultaneously soothe a sore throat. Blend a handful of greens with plant protein powder, nut butter or avocado , nut milk or water, frozen fruit, fresh ginger root, turmeric, and black pepper.
9. Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherry juice may be helpful for a sore throat. In addition to quelling inflammation, it may help you get some rest. That's because tart cherries are one of the few foods that naturally contain melatonin .
Studies have found that in addition to improving sleep, consuming cherries brings many health benefits, including decreasing:
- Blood pressure
- Exercise-induced muscle soreness and loss of strength
- Oxidative stress
10. Vegetable Broth
A warm cup of broth is comforting, and the steam can help loosen congestion if you're also stuffed up. Plus, vegetable broth can provide nutrients and antioxidants and become a vehicle for delivering other beneficial ingredients, such as garlic.
Garlic has sulfur compounds that fight inflammation and contains anti-bacterial, viral, and fungal compounds, which can boost immunity. Research has demonstrated that aged garlic extract may enhance immune cell function, reducing cold and flu symptoms (as well as missed days of work or school).
Yogurt is a cool, soft food to eat with a sore throat. Because it's cold, you may relieve a sore throat by eating yogurt. Additionally, yogurt has vitamin A and anti-inflammatory properties. It contains probiotics—beneficial live bacteria for the digestive system—which help with immune system regulation.
Add yogurt to a smoothie, or eat it with some honey. You can also try dairy-free yogurts with bases such as almonds, coconut, or oats.
Foods and Drinks to Avoid
Some foods and drinks can make a sore throat feel worse and are best to avoid or limit. They include:
- Acidic products, including acidic juices (e.g., orange or tomato) and vinegar
- Carbonated drinks
- Hard or very crunch foods such as crackers or dry toast
- Spicy foods
- Very hot foods and drinks
Sore Throat Remedies
Eating or avoiding and limiting certain foods and drinks can be helpful for a sore throat. However, other sore throat remedies include:
- Gargling with warm salt water, using just a little salt—no more than a 1/2 teaspoon
- Sucking on hard candies or throat lozenges
- Using a humidifier or over-the-counter pain medications
When to Contact a Healthcare Provider
Consult a healthcare provider if you have a sore throat and you:
- Develop a fever, swollen neck lymph nodes , or a rash
- Have a persistent sore throat
- Have trouble breathing—which needs immediate medical attention
- Have worsened symptoms after three days of antibiotics for sore throats caused by bacteria
- See no symptom improvement
A Quick Review
There are many foods you can eat if you want relief from a sore throat, such as mashed sweet potatoes, all-fruit popsicles, and smoothies. Other sore throat remedies include options like taking pain medications or gargling with warm salt water.
However, you'll want to avoid foods and drinks that are acidic, spicy, or very hot. See a healthcare provider if you have a sore throat that doesn't go away, gets worse, or comes with symptoms like fever or trouble breathing.
Frequently Asked Questions
There's not much research available to support if you should or should not eat peanut butter while you're sick with a sore throat. However, it may be fine in small amounts when added with other ingredients, like in a smoothie.
You can eat ice cream to soothe a sore throat, as it is a soft, cold food.
The length of time a sore throat lasts depends on the cause. For example, sore throats caused by a cold or flu virus may last from one week to 10 days. A sore throat due to mononucleosis (mono) might not go away for four weeks or more.
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Samarghandian S, Farkhondeh T, Samini F. Honey and health: A review of recent clinical research . Pharmacognosy Res . 2017;9(2):121-127. doi:10.4103/0974-8490.204647
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So, you have a cold. What are the best ways to find relief?
A popular decongestant was pulled from some u.s. shelves this week.
There are dozens of cold and cough medicines on the market, and many home remedies claiming to help — like a bowl of chicken soup.
But what actually works?
This week, CVS Health, a large pharmacy chain in the U.S., pulled some oral cold and cough medicines containing a popular decongestant from pharmacy shelves . The move comes after a panel of experts reviewed research and concluded phenylephrine is no better at relieving congestion than a placebo.
Phenylephrine is found in popular cold and sinus remedies like Sudafed and Dayquil.
- A popular decongestant has been deemed ineffective. Here's what it means for Canadians
- Popular decongestant in many cold meds is ineffective, says U.S. drug advisory panel
Products containing the decongestant are still available in Canadian and some U.S. pharmacies. A Health Canada spokesperson says they are reviewing "all available information," including the advice from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's advisory panel of experts.
One Canadian doctor says he expects it's only a matter of time before oral products with phenylephrine as the main ingredient start disappearing in Canada, too.
"Don't worry about it, because it wasn't doing much at all," Dr. Peter Lin, a family physician in Toronto and CBC Radio's house doctor, told Dr. Brian Goldman, host of The Dose podcast.
Before trying anything, doctors say it's important to remember that the common cold virus just needs to run its course.
"A lot of us just think we can medicate away the symptoms that we have. But sometimes you need to give your body a rest in order to be able to heal properly," said Dr. Melissa Lem, a Vancouver-based family doctor and clinical assistant professor at the University of British Columbia.
She says there's not much harm in trying some of the common remedies to treat a cold, like an herbal supplement. But it's important to know what the research shows about its effectiveness.
But if you're looking to lessen some of the symptoms of a cold, here's what doctors say can help to treat symptoms.
Try to avoid viruses
Lin says making sure you get the latest COVID-19 booster and the flu shot — and for seniors, the RSV vaccine — can all help to protect someone from catching a virus in the first place.
Lem recommends the following measures to try and avoid viruses:
- Sanitize your hands frequently
- Wear a mask
- Ventilate indoor spaces
"If we use the layered approach, we will have an OK time getting across the cold and flu season," Lin said.
Some medications can help
Lin and Lem say they still get patients coming to their office during the cold and flu season asking for antibiotics. But in most cases, patients are dealing with the common cold, and antibiotics won't help their symptoms, according to Lem.
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections and to stop bacteria from multiplying, according to Health Canada .
Lem says the average cold lasts up to 10 days. But when those symptoms hit, Lin says people often turn to over-the-counter products in hopes of feeling better as soon as possible.
He adds that for most adults, over-the-counter cold and cough medicine won't cause harm if taken correctly, but they don't necessarily always help, either. He points to the recent decision from the FDA panel of experts about phenylephrine.
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"That's why they have to do trials, to show is there a benefit or no benefit," he said.
However, some over-the-counter cold and cough medicine may help symptoms, Lin says. Medicine containing cough suppressants can help address a dry cough, and products containing acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help lower fevers.
Doctor answers your questions about the new COVID-19 vaccine
Cold medicine with an anti-inflammatory can take away any minor pain, he adds. But Lin emphasizes it's hard to know definitively if people would have gotten better on their own or if the medicine helped.
He also reminds parents to not use cold and cough medicine to treat symptoms in kids .
"The Canadian Pediatric Society was pretty clear that we should be avoiding these things."
Chicken soup is a common suggestion to help those get better — and there is some research to show that it may actually help.
A peer-reviewed study published in 2000 found that chicken soup — when it includes vegetables — "may contain a number of substances with beneficial medicinal activity."
The study's authors from the University of Nebraska Medical Center also noted that a "mild anti-inflammatory effect" could be a reason why chicken soup helps address upper respiratory tract infections.
The steam from the hot liquid "may open up congested noses and throats" — but it will not cure your cold, say doctors with New York City's Mount Sinai health system.
"I think soups, fluids, that kind of thing are fantastic and they are a nice alternative to spending money on drugstore remedies that may not have the best evidence," Lem said.
She's also a fan of honey in a warm liquid for anyone over a year old to help soothe a sore throat. Gargling with warm water and salt can also help, Lin says.
Lin and Lem add that nasal rinses can help get rid of backup in the nasal sinuses. "I'm a big fan of neti pots and sinus irrigation because sometimes you just can't get the gunk out without flushing it with fluid," Lem said.
She adds that it's important when using a nasal rinse to boil your water or use saline to avoid getting a rare fungal infection.
- Brain-eating amoeba linked to nasal rinse for Seattle woman
Lin also recommends leaning over hot water in a cup or using a humidifier to keep the throat moist. He says when someone has a stuffy nose, they'll breathe through their mouth, which can dry out the throat.
"That's why the humidifier is helpful."
What about vitamins?
Vitamins and herbal remedies, such as vitamin C and zinc, are often suggested to help get over a cold or avoid one altogether.
Lem says the evidence on their effectiveness "is really conflicting." Research into zinc for treating the common cold has shown mixed results, according to one meta analysis .
Authors of a meta-analysis on vitamin C found that taking the vitamin every day over a longer period of time didn't prevent colds or show consistent benefits if you take it after you've already developed symptoms. However they did find that it slightly shortened the amount of time people were sick by about 10 per cent.
While Lem says taking these vitamins won't cause harm if taken appropriately, "I would say the main drawback would be spending your money on things that don't work."
Lem does caution that when taken in higher-than-recommended daily amounts, vitamin C can be harmful and can increase the risk of kidney stones.
Is it a cold or something else?
Lem says the symptoms of COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can vary "so much depending on your age, underlying conditions and immune response." She says that can make it really difficult to tell if you have symptoms caused by either of these or another virus.
Early signs of a cold can include:
- Sore throat
Other symptoms could be headache, stuffy nose, watering eyes, hacking cough, chills and muscle aches, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
RSV can cause similar symptoms to a cold, Lem says, but in some people it can cause wheezing or shortness of breath.
Health experts say people who feel sick should take a COVID-19 test to see if they test positive.
If you're still unsure of what virus you may have, Alberta Health Services has a list of the most frequent symptoms for common viruses. If you are getting sicker, have new or worse trouble breathing, have a new or high fever or a new rash, HealthLink BC recommends people seek immediate medical help.
When to seek help
It's important to know when cold symptoms become serious, Lem says.
She recommends a person see a doctor or visits their local emergency room as soon as possible if they're experiencing:
- Shortness of breath
- Severe lethargy
- Trouble waking up
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie Dubois is a journalist with CBC News. Share your story ideas with her at [email protected]
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NutriBiotic – Throat Spray with GSE, 4 Fl. Oz | Gentle and Soothing Sore Throat Support with Grapefruit Seed Extract, Zinc & Menthol | Alcohol Free & Non-Medicated
About this item.
- AID, SUPPORT & PROMOTE: healthy throat & mouth conditions with grapefruit seed extract, zinc, menthol & slippery elm bark
- HARMONIOUS INGREDIENTS: for overall immune support—& freshens breath too!
- YOU’LL BE HAPPY IT’S MISSING: vegan & made without alcohol, GMOs, gluten, & soy—and never tested on animals
- A TRUSTED SOURCE FOR OVER 40 YEARS: NutriBiotic was founded with the guiding principle that everyone deserves good health and continues to help customers achieve healthier, happier lives by providing innovative, high quality nutritional supplements and personal care products
- Packaging (product sprayer) May Vary
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Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon) products remove excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.
NUTRIBIOTIC – THROAT SPRAY
Grapefruit Seed Extract & Zinc Make a Great Combination
Designed to be more than sore throat support, NutriBiotic Throat Spray is formulated to help promote healthy conditions in the throat and mouth, and it freshens breath too!
Our formula uses zinc to support the immune system by increasing the reproduction of cells that fight foreign invaders and decrease inflammation caused by allergies.* NutriBiotic Throat Spray is drug-free, non-medicated, and made without GMOs, gluten, soy, milk, eggs, and wheat.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Federal Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Since 1981, our founding principle “everyone deserves good health” has guided us to helping individuals achieve healthier, happier lives by providing innovative, high quality nutritional supplements and personal care products
A Trusted Source & A Company That Cares
NutriBiotic is a small, California based business. We are like family, and we treat our customers like family. For over 40 years, we’ve been committed to helping our customers achieve healthier, happier lives by providing innovative, high quality nutritional supplements and personal care products. Our founding principle is that everyone deserves good health.
You will find our products in many natural food stores, vitamin shops, and offices of health practitioners worldwide. We are always innovating and developing effective, quality, cruelty-free formulas with top-of-the-line ingredients to best support your health.
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- Product Dimensions : 1.75 x 1.75 x 6.25 inches; 4 Ounces
- Item model number : B0009MSTX4
- UPC : 728177010164
- Manufacturer : Nutribiotic
- ASIN : B0009MSTX4
- #245 in Cold & Flu Medicine
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Nutribiotic Throat Spray, 4 Fluid Ounce
Customer Review: Broken.
Do not spray in eyes. If irritation persists, discontinue use and consult your physician.
Purified Water, Glycerin, Zinc, Gluconate, Citricidal Brand Grapefruit Seed Extract, Peg-40 Castor Oil, Stevia Extract, Slippery Elm Extract, Peppermint Oil, Aloe Vera Gel, Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice Extract (Dgl), And Menthol.
Spray 2-3 times into the back of your throat, one to several times daily as needed.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This products is not intended to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent any disease.
To report an issue with this product, click here .
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By Aayushi Gupta
Published Nov 03, 2023
Air pollution: 5 home remedies to soothe sore throat
Sore throat is a common side effect of air pollution. if you are experiencing the it, try these 6 effective home remedies to ease the pain and discomfort., image credits : shutterstock, a teaspoon of honey in warm water or tea can provide relief by soothing the irritated throat. all thanks to its natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties., chamomile tea, chamomile tea is known for its calming and anti-inflammatory qualities. sipping on warm chamomile tea can help reduce throat inflammation and discomfort., peppermint contains menthol, which has a soothing effect on the throat. you can make peppermint tea or simply inhale its vapors to ease throat irritation., ginger has natural anti-inflammatory properties and can help alleviate sore throat pain. you can make ginger tea or mix ginger with honey for a soothing concoction., saltwater gargle, gargling with warm salt water can help reduce swelling and provide temporary relief from sore throat symptoms. it's a simple yet effective remedy., marshmallow root, marshmallow root contains mucilage, which coats the throat and soothes irritation. you can prepare marshmallow root tea to alleviate sore throat discomfort., tired of the mucus stuck in your throat 5 ways to get rid of phlegm, download app.