Sore Throat

About Sore Throats

Sore throats are very common, and are usually associated with another illness or infection, such as the common cold.

People suffering a sore throat also often have a headache, muscle aches, a cough or a runny nose. In most cases, symptoms pass within a week.   

Sore throats are more common amongst young people, as their immune system is not fully developed.

Sore Throat Symptoms

Sore throats are usually characterised by a dry, burning sensation, or feeling of itchiness and discomfort, at the back of the throat.

They can result in swollen tonsils (two small glands found at the back of the throat), enlarged glands around the neck, and pain when swallowing. 

Sore throats often come hand-in-hand with other symptoms, such as a runny nose, headache, cough or muscular aches, and they are usually the result of an illness such as cold or flu. Most are not serious and will clear up within a week.

Most sore throats can be treated with over the counter medication - however, in some cases, a sore throat may be indicative of an infection, such as tonsillitis. It may be worth seeing a GP if your sore throat is combined with a high temperature (38oC and above), persists for more than a fortnight, or doesn't respond to painkillers.

Practical Sore Throat Treatments

Most sore throats can be treated with over the counter medication, such as a linctus or syrup.

  • To help combat pain and discomfort, take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. These can also help alleviate other symptoms, such as a high temperature. 
  • Avoid smoking, as this will worsen any discomfort.
  • Generally, it's a good idea not to eat or drink anything which is too hot, as this will irritate your throat. Instead, go for colder foods and drinks. These will help to soothe discomfort, rather than exacerbate it.
  • Gargling with salty water can help to reduce pain and swelling.

For severe sore throats, antibiotics may be prescribed. A persistent sore throat may indicate a different problem. For those aged 15 to 25, an on-going sore throat may be caused by glandular fever (infectious mononucleosis).

In extreme cases, a sore throat could be a symptom of cancer. However, this is very rare and usually only affects those aged 50 and over.