Sore Throat

Sore Throat

Sore throats are commonly caused by either a viral or bacterial infection. There can be other non-infective causes also.

Symptoms and signs of a sore throat include

  • swollen tonsils (two small glands found at the back of your throat, behind the tongue)
  • enlarged and tender glands in your neck
  • a painful, tender feeling at the back of your throat
  • discomfort when swallowing

If you have a sore throat, you may also experience a number of other symptoms that are associated with common infectious conditions, such as:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or over
  • aching muscles
  • a headache
  • tiredness
  • a cough
  • a runny nose

These other symptoms will depend on what infection is causing your sore throat.


When a sore throat develops, you can treat yourself by:

  • Taking pain relief. Soluble analgesia (2 tablets dissolved in water) three times a day is very effective.
  • Rest your voice as much as possible.
  • Avoid smoking and smoky environments
  • Use antibacterial lozenges and / or throat spray containing anaesthetics to relieve pain.
  • Increase fluid intake, keep warm, rest and try to have early nights.
  • Eat cool, soft food and drink cool or warm liquids.

The use of antibiotics (medication to treat bacterial infection) is not usually recommended for the treatment of sore throats. This is because most sore throats are not caused by bacteria. Even if your sore throat is caused by bacteria, antibiotics have very little effect on the severity of the symptoms and how long they last.

When to see the doctor or nurse

  • Severe, sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing, severe pain
  • Feverish/ chills/ despite regular Disprin –
  • You have a persistent fever, a temperature that is above 38C (100.4F) which medication does not reduce
  • Lethargy / sore throat persisted longer than 5-6 days with above management.
  • Wheeze in an asthmatic, any breathing difficulties.
  • You have frequent sore throats that do not respond to painkillers, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin

It is important to investigate the cause of your temperature because it may be the result of a more serious condition, such as:

  • epiglottitis: inflammation (swelling and redness) of the epiglottis (the flap of tissue at the back of the throat, underneath the tongue) which, if left untreated, can cause breathing difficulties
  • quinsy: an abscess (painful collection of pus) that develops between the back of the tonsil and the wall of the throat

How to prevent sore throats

Sore throats cannot be prevented entirely but by taking good care of yourself, risks can be greatly reduced by:

  • Washing your hands regularly and properly, particularly before handling food.
  • Eating a healthy diet being aware to include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • By getting adequate rest and sleep.
  • Start Disprin gargles at the first sign of sore throat
  • Don't smoke
  • Avoid smoky atmospheres as much as possible.

More information

Causes and treatment of your sore throat

Manage your sore throat