Sore throat remedies
Sore throats are common in children, teenagers and adults. Depending on what's caused the sore throat, they usually don't need any specific medical treatment. However, home care can help soothe the symptoms.
Most sore throats are triggered by a virus and will get better after around a week.
Seek medical advice if a sore throat is causing difficulty with breathing, swallowing, producing high-pitched breath sounds or a lot of discomfort.
A GP will usually advise taking paracetamol or ibuprofen for a sore throat - but may prescribe antibiotics if they think it is due to a more serious bacterial infection rather than a virus. Antibiotics don’t work for viruses.
Evidence reviewed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Public Health England (PHE) in 2017 led them to conclude most painful throats, including tonsillitis and pharyngitis, are often triggered by a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract and will get better without the need for antibiotics.
Prescribing fewer antibiotics also helps reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance.
Painkillers can help relieve the symptoms of a sore throat. These include over-the-counter painkillers, such as age-appropriate paracetamol or ibuprofen. Aspirin should never be given to children under 16 years of age.
Soothing a sore throat
Home remedies that can help soothe a sore throat include:
- Salt water gargle
- Sucking sweets, lozenges, ice lollies or ice cubes
- Drinking plenty of cool or warm drinks, including warm soup
- Warm honey and lemon drinks.
NICE says adults can try medicated lozenges, but these only reduce pain by a small amount, and no evidence has been found for the use of non-medicated lozenges, mouthwashes, or local anaesthetic mouth sprays (without an antiseptic) used on their own.
Don't irritate a sore throat
Things to avoid with a sore throat include:
- Food and drink that's too hot
- Smoking or secondhand smoke
- Steam inhalation – while this may help relieve nasal congestion, hot steam can scald a sore throat