Sore throat symptoms

A sore throat is normally a symptom of a viral infection, which will get better by itself. Symptoms may 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 other symptoms associated with common infectious conditions, such as:

  • A high temperature of 38oC 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.

Preventing a sore throat


As sore throats are caused by bacterial or viral infections, they can be difficult to prevent.
If you have a sore throat caused by an infection, you can help prevent the infection spreading by practising good hygiene, such as washing your hands regularly and keeping surfaces clean and free of germs.

Duration


The duration of your sore throat will depend on what infection is causing it, but will usually pass in three to seven days.  If you have a sore throat you should make an appointment to see your GP if:
  • You have a persistent high temperature above 38oC which is not reduced by medication
  • Your symptoms do not improve after two weeks
  • You have frequent sore throats that do not respond to painkillers, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen

Treatment


For treating sore throats, over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen are usually recommended. These may also help to reduce a high temperature.

To help relieve the symptoms of a sore throat you should:
  • Avoid food or drink that is too hot as this could irritate your throat.
  • Eat cool, soft food and drink cool or warm liquids.
  • Adults and older children can suck lozenges, hard sweets, ice cubes or ice lollies.
  • Avoid smoking and smoky environments.
  • Regularly gargle with a mouthwash of warm salty water to reduce any swelling or pain.
  • Drink enough fluids, especially if you have a high temperature.