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Sore throat - What is a sore throat?

BMJ Group Medical Reference


A sore throat can be painful, especially when you swallow. But it usually clears up on its own after three or four days. And there are things you can do to make yourself feel more comfortable.

We've brought together the best research about sore throats and weighed up the evidence about how to treat them. You can use our information to talk to your doctor and decide which treatments are best for you.

A sore throat is caused by an infection. The infection could be caused by bacteria or a virus. Sore throats are very common, and are often part of another illness, such as a cold. A sore throat isn't usually serious and will probably get better on its own.

Viruses, like the ones that cause colds, are the most common cause of a sore throat.[1] They spread easily from one person to another. You can pick up a cold virus by breathing in droplets carrying viruses after somebody sneezes.[2]Antibiotics don't work against viruses.

Some viruses can cause very severe sore throats. For example, glandular fever, which tends to affect young adults, is usually caused by a virus. Most people recover from glandular fever within four to six weeks without any treatment.

Bacteria can also cause sore throats. You might hear a sore throat called strep throat. This is short for Streptococcus, the most common type of bacteria to cause a sore throat.[1]

You won't usually be able to tell what's caused your sore throat because the symptoms are the same whether it's a bacteria or virus.

A sore throat can also be a symptom of other illnesses that affect parts of the throat, such as bronchitis, tonsillitis, sinusitis, and laryngitis (when the voice box gets inflamed).


For references related to Sore throat click here.
Last Updated: September 14, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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