Sore Throat

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What is a sore throat?

A sore throat is a pain, scratchy feeling or irritation of the throat that feels worse when you swallow. The most common cause of a sore throat (pharyngitis) is a viral infection, like a cold or flu. Whilst they can be irritating, sore throats usually resolve on their own and usually aren’t anything to worry about. 


How do you get a sore throat?


Sore throats often make it painful to swallow and can make the throat feel dry or scratchy and can be a result of viral and bacterial infections or upper respiratory tract illnesses.


Sore throats can also be caused by viral infections such as:

  • Cold and Flu 
  • Mono (mononucleosis)
  • Measles
  • Chickenpox
  • Covid-19
  • Croup — a common illness amongst children (harsh, barking-sounding cough)


Bacterial infections can also cause sore throats with the most common being Streptococcus, also known as strep or strep throat.


Other causes of a sore throat can include:

  • Laryngitis
  • Tonsillitis 
  • Glandular fever
  • Allergies
  • Dry air or breathing through your mouth because of chronic nasal congestion
  • Irritants such as air pollution 
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Drinking alcohol 
  • Eating spicy foods 
  • Muscle strains from shouting, talking loudly or talking for long periods of time without rest
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which involves stomach acids backing up in the oesophagus (food pipe)
  • HIV infection
  • Throat tumours


If you are suffering from a viral infection, other symptoms may follow a sore throat, this can include:


  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Hoarseness (change in your voice which may sound raspy, strained or breathy)
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)

Since Covid 19, there are a number of symptoms that can mimic or are present in a Covid 19 infection. We would advise that you go through our Covid 19 guide or use the link below to access regularly updated Covid 19 guidance. 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – NHS

When to see a doctor

You should typically see a doctor if your symptoms worsen and if over-the-counter and home treatments haven’t worked. You should also book an appointment to see your doctor if you begin to suffer from any of the following problems as they could indicate signs of an infection or other health problem:


  • A sore throat that lasts longer than a week and is starting to feel severe
  • You get sore throats often
  • You have a weakened immune system (e.g. due to chemotherapy or diabetes)
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty opening your mouth
  • Joint pain
  • Earache
  • Rash
  • Fever higher than 38.3 C
  • Blood in your saliva or phlegm
  • A lump in your neck
  • Hoarseness in your voice lasting more than two weeks
  • Swelling in your neck or face

How to get rid of a sore throat

There are lots of home remedies that can help you feel better if you have a sore throat.:


  • Suck on ice lollies, lozenges, or ice cubes (do not give lozenges or ice cubes to children under 2 years old)
  • Gargle with warm, salty water
  • Drink warm beverages and plenty of fluids
  • Eat soft foods
  • Avoid smoking
  • Use a humidifier when sleeping at night
  • Rest


There are also plenty of over-the-counter medicines available to help relieve your symptoms if the home remedies haven’t worked:


  • Try taking paracetamol or ibuprofen 
  • Take medicated lozenges that contain a local anaesthetic, antiseptic or anti-inflammatory medicine


You can buy these medicines from supermarkets, drugstores or from a pharmacist without a prescription.


The easiest way to prevent getting a sore throat is to practice good hygiene and avoid the germs that cause them:


  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Avoid sharing food, drinking glasses and utensils 
  • Make sure to cough or sneeze into tissues or the crook of your elbow, then wash your hands
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitisers when soap and water aren’t available
  • Regularly clean household surfaces (phones, remotes, door handles, keyboards, light switches etc.)
  • Avoid getting into close contact with people who are ill or have symptoms

Online GP appointments for sore throat

If your sore throat is bothering you, you can make a same-day online GP appointment at Medicspot. Consultations are by video link at a time and place that suits you. Our GPs will ask about your age, general health, lifestyle, any medications you are taking, and your symptoms. They can then recommend further tests or prescribe any necessary treatment.

Can a pharmacist help with a sore throat?

Your local pharmacist will be able to recommend over-the-counter treatments or medicines to help you take care of your sore throat.


Find a pharmacy near you


Sore Throat – Mayo Clinic (Accessed 18 August 2022) 


Sore Throat – NHS UK (Accessed 18 August 2022) 


Sore Throat – CDC (Accessed 18 August 2022) 

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