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

A pharmacist can help with sore throats

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 buy them from a supermarket or from a pharmacist without a prescription.

See a GP if:

  • your sore throat doesn’t 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).

Causes and symptoms of sore throats

Sore throats are usually caused by viruses (like cold or flu) or from smoking. Very occasionally they can be caused by bacteria.

Symptoms include:

  • painful throat, especially when swallowing
  • dry scratchy throat
  • redness in the back of the mouth
  • bad breath
  • mild cough
  • swollen neck glands

The symptoms are similar for children, but children can also get a temperature and appear less active.