Person clutching glowing red throat

Throat infection

Sore throat

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
  • rest

To help relieve the pain and discomfort of a sore throat, you can:

  • use paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • use medicated lozenges or anaesthetic sprays (although there’s little proof they help). You can purchase them from a pharmacist without a prescription.

See one of a healthcare practitioner if:

  • your sore throat does not improve after a week
  • you often get sore throats
  • 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

A severe or long-lasting sore throat could be something like strep throat (a bacterial throat infection).

111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.

Antibiotics

Practitioners do not normally prescribe antibiotics for sore throats because they will not usually relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery.

They’ll only be prescribed if the practitioner thinks you could have a bacterial infection.

Call 999 if:

  • you have difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • you’re drooling
  • you’re making a high-pitched sound as you breathe (called stridor)
  • your symptoms are severe and getting worse quickly
These symptoms can make breathing more difficult.
Click here for more information about laryngitis, tonsillitis and glandular fever – three of the most common throat infections we provide treatment for.