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)
How to gargle with salt water
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
If you have a sore throat, complete our self-help guide to assess your symptoms and find out what to do next.
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