Main content

    Health Information

    Sore Throat and Other Throat Problems

    Sore Throat and Other Throat Problems

    Topic Overview

    Sore throats can be painful and annoying. Fortunately, most sore throats are caused by a minor illness and go away without medical treatment.

    Several conditions can cause a sore throat.

    Viral infections

    Sore throats may be caused by a viral illness, such as:

    Bacterial infections

    A bacterial infection may also cause a sore throat. This can occur from:

    Irritants and injuries

    A sore throat that lasts longer than a week is often caused by irritants or an injuries, such as:

    • Throat irritation from low humidity, smoking, air pollution, yelling, or nasal drainage down the back of the throat ( postnasal drip ).
    • Breathing through the mouth when you have allergies or a stuffy nose.
    • Stomach acid that backs up into the throat, which may be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease ( GERD ). Although GERD often occurs with heartburn , an acid taste in the mouth, or a cough, sometimes a sore throat is the only symptom.
    • An injury to the back of the throat, such as a cut or puncture from falling with a pointed object in the mouth.
    • Chronic fatigue syndrome , a condition that causes extreme tiredness.

    Treatment for a sore throat depends on the cause. You may be able to use home treatment to obtain relief.

    Because viral illnesses are the most common cause of a sore throat, it is important not to use antibiotics to treat them. Antibiotics do not alter the course of viral infections. Unnecessary use of an antibiotic exposes you to the risks of an allergic reaction and antibiotic side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, and yeast infections. Antibiotics also may kill beneficial bacteria and encourage the development of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria. For sore throats caused by strep, treatment with antibiotics may be needed.

    Click here to view a Decision Point. Sore Throat: Should I Take Antibiotics?

    Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

    Health ToolsHealth Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.

    Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.


    Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems. Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems.
    Sore Throat: Should I Take Antibiotics?

    Check Your Symptoms

    Do you have a sore throat?
    This also includes symptoms like hoarseness or a lump in the throat.
    Yes
    Sore throat
    No
    Sore throat
    How old are you?
    Less than 3 months
    Less than 3 months
    3 months to less than 3 years
    3 months to less than 3 years
    3 to 11 years
    3 to 11 years
    12 years or older
    12 years or older
    Are you male or female?
    Male
    Male
    Female
    Female
    Do you have an injury to your mouth or teeth?
    Yes
    Injury to mouth or teeth
    No
    Injury to mouth or teeth
    Do you think that a problem with your mouth (such as a sore or an infection) is causing the sore throat?
    Yes
    Mouth problem may be causing sore throat
    No
    Mouth problem may be causing sore throat
    Do you think your baby might be very sick?
    A sick baby probably will not be acting normally. For example, the baby may be much fussier than usual or not want to eat.
    Yes
    Baby might be very sick
    No
    Baby might be very sick
    How sick do you think your baby is?
    Extremely sick
    Baby is very sick (limp and not responsive)
    Sick
    Baby is sick (sleepier than usual, not eating or drinking like usual)
    Is your baby having trouble breathing?
    Sometimes babies may have trouble breathing because of a stuffy nose. If your baby's nose is stuffy, clearing the nose with a rubber bulb may help.
    Yes
    Difficulty breathing
    No
    Difficulty breathing
    Would you describe the breathing problem as severe, moderate, or mild?
    Severe
    Severe difficulty breathing
    Moderate
    Moderate difficulty breathing
    Mild
    Mild difficulty breathing
    Do you think your baby may be dehydrated?
    Yes
    May be dehydrated
    No
    May be dehydrated
    Are the symptoms severe, moderate, or mild?
    Severe
    Severe dehydration
    Moderate
    Moderate dehydration
    Mild
    Mild dehydration
    Do you think your baby has a fever?
    Yes
    Fever
    No
    Fever
    Did you take a rectal temperature?
    Taking a rectal temperature is the only way to be sure that a baby this age does not have a fever. If you don't know the rectal temperature, it's safest to assume the baby has a fever and needs to be seen by a doctor. Any problem that causes a fever at this age could be serious.
    Yes
    Rectal temperature taken
    No
    Rectal temperature taken
    Is it 100.4F (38C) or higher?
    Yes
    Temperature at least 100.4F (38C)
    No
    Temperature at least 100.4F (38C)
    Yes
    Drooling and unable to swallow
    No
    Drooling and unable to swallow
    Is your child having trouble breathing (more than a stuffy nose)?
    Yes
    Difficulty breathing more than stuffy nose
    No
    Difficulty breathing more than stuffy nose
    Would you describe the breathing problem as severe, moderate, or mild?
    Severe
    Severe difficulty breathing
    Moderate
    Moderate difficulty breathing
    Mild
    Mild difficulty breathing
    Is your child's ability to breathe:
    Getting worse?
    Breathing problems are getting worse
    Staying about the same (not better or worse)?
    Breathing problems are unchanged
    Getting better?
    Breathing problems are getting better
    Is your child's ability to breathe:
    Quickly getting worse (within minutes or hours)?
    Breathing problems are quickly worsening
    Slowly getting worse (over days)?
    Breathing problems are slowly worsening
    Staying about the same (not better or worse)?
    Breathing problems are unchanged
    Getting better?
    Breathing problems are getting better
    Does your child have a chronic health problem that affects his or her breathing, such as asthma?
    A breathing problem may be more of a concern if your child normally does not have breathing problems.
    Yes
    Has chronic breathing problems
    No
    Has chronic breathing problems
    Is the problem your child is having right now different than what you are used to?
    Yes
    Breathing problem is different than usual symptoms
    No
    Breathing problem is different than usual symptoms
    Does your child make a harsh, high-pitched sound when he or she breathes in?
    This often occurs with a loud cough that sounds like a barking seal.
    Yes
    Harsh, high-pitched sound when breathing
    No
    Harsh, high-pitched sound when breathing
    Yes
    Suddenly drooling and unable to swallow
    No
    Suddenly drooling and unable to swallow
    Are you having trouble breathing (more than a stuffy nose)?
    Yes
    Difficulty breathing more than a stuffy nose
    No
    Difficulty breathing more than a stuffy nose
    Would you describe the problem as severe, moderate, or mild?
    Severe
    Severe difficulty breathing
    Moderate
    Moderate difficulty breathing
    Mild
    Mild difficulty breathing
    Is your ability to breathe:
    Quickly getting worse (within minutes or hours)?
    Breathing problems are quickly worsening
    Slowly getting worse (over days)?
    Breathing problems are slowly worsening
    Staying about the same (not better or worse)?
    Breathing problems are unchanged
    Getting better?
    Breathing problems are getting better
    Do you have a chronic health problem that affects your breathing, such as asthma, allergies, or COPD?
    A breathing problem may be more of a concern if you normally do not have breathing problems.
    Yes
    Has chronic breathing problems
    No
    Has chronic breathing problems
    Are the breathing problems you're having right now different than what you are used to?
    Yes
    Breathing problem is different than usual symptoms
    No
    Breathing problem is different than usual symptoms
    Do you think you may be dehydrated?
    Yes
    May be dehydrated
    No
    May be dehydrated
    Are the symptoms severe, moderate, or mild?
    Severe
    Severe dehydration
    Moderate
    Moderate dehydration
    Mild
    Mild dehydration
    Are you having trouble drinking enough to replace the fluids you've lost?
    Little sips of fluid usually are not enough. You need to be able to take in and keep down plenty of fluids.
    Yes
    Unable to maintain fluid intake
    No
    Able to maintain fluid intake
    Do you think your child has a fever?
    Yes
    Fever
    No
    Fever
    Did you take your child's temperature?
    Yes
    Temperature taken
    No
    Temperature taken
    How high is the fever? The answer may depend on how you took the temperature.
    High: 104F (40C) or higher, oral
    High fever: 104F (40C) or higher, oral
    Moderate: 100.4F (38C) to 103.9F (39.9C), oral
    Moderate fever: 100.4F (38C) to 103.9F (39.9C), oral
    Mild: 100.3F (37.9C) or lower, oral
    Mild fever: 100.3F (37.9C) or lower, oral
    How high do you think the fever is?
    High
    Feels fever is high
    Moderate
    Feels fever is moderate
    Mild or low
    Feels fever is mild
    How long has your child had a fever?
    Less than 2 days (48 hours)
    Fever for less than 2 days
    From 2 days to less than 1 week
    Fever for more than 2 days and less than 1 week
    1 week or longer
    Fever for 1 week or more
    Does your child have a health problem or take medicine that weakens his or her immune system?
    Yes
    Disease or medicine that causes immune system problems
    No
    Disease or medicine that causes immune system problems
    Does your child have shaking chills or very heavy sweating?
    Shaking chills are a severe, intense form of shivering. Heavy sweating means that sweat is pouring off the child or soaking through his or her clothes.
    Yes
    Shaking chills or heavy sweating
    No
    Shaking chills or heavy sweating
    Do you think you may have a fever?
    Yes
    Possible fever
    No
    Possible fever
    Did you take your temperature?
    Yes
    Temperature taken
    No
    Temperature taken
    How high is the fever? The answer may depend on how you took the temperature.
    High: 104F (40C) or higher, oral
    High fever: 104F (40C) or higher, oral
    Moderate: 100.4F (38C) to 103.9F (39.9C), oral
    Moderate fever: 100.4F (38C) to 103.9F (39.9C), oral
    Mild: 100.3F (37.9C) or lower, oral
    Mild fever: 100.3F (37.9C) or lower, oral
    How high do you think the fever is?
    High
    Feels fever is high
    Moderate
    Feels fever is moderate
    Mild or low
    Feels fever is mild
    How long have you had a fever?
    Less than 2 days (48 hours)
    Fever for less than 2 days
    At least 2 days but less than 1 week
    Fever for at least 2 days but less than 1 week
    1 week or more
    Fever for 1 week or more
    Do you have a health problem or take medicine that weakens your immune system?
    Yes
    Disease or medicine that causes immune system problems
    No
    Disease or medicine that causes immune system problems
    Do you have shaking chills or very heavy sweating?
    Shaking chills are a severe, intense form of shivering. Heavy sweating means that sweat is pouring off you or soaking through your clothes.
    Yes
    Shaking chills or heavy sweating
    No
    Shaking chills or heavy sweating
    Is there any pain?
    Yes
    Pain
    No
    Pain
    How bad is your throat pain, if 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you can imagine?
    8 to 10: Severe
    Severe throat pain
    5 to 7: Moderate
    Moderate throat pain
    1 to 4: Mild
    Mild throat pain
    Is the pain on only one side of your throat?
    Yes
    Throat pain on one side
    No
    Throat pain on one side
    Does your voice sound hoarse or muffled?
    Yes
    Hoarse or muffled voice
    No
    Hoarse or muffled voice
    How long have you had the sore throat?
    Less than 1 day (24 hours)
    Sore throat for less than 24 hours
    1 day to 1 week
    Sore throat for 1 day to 1 week
    Longer than 1 week
    Sore throat for more than 1 week
    Do you have swollen lymph nodes in your neck?
    Yes
    Swollen lymph nodes in neck
    No
    Swollen lymph nodes in neck
    Do you have white or green patches or pus on the back of your throat?
    Yes
    Pus or white or green patches on back of throat
    No
    Pus or white or green patches on back of throat
    Do you have cold symptoms, such as a runny or stuffy nose or drainage from your nose down the back of your throat?
    Colds often cause a sore throat. You can usually treat this at home.
    Yes
    Cold symptoms
    No
    Cold symptoms
    Do you have a rash?
    Certain illnesses can cause a sore throat and a rash. You may need to be seen sooner if you have both.
    Yes
    Rash
    No
    Rash
    Have your symptoms lasted longer than 2 weeks?
    Yes
    Symptoms for more than 2 weeks
    No
    Symptoms for more than 2 weeks

    A baby that is extremely sick:

    • May be limp and floppy like a rag doll.
    • May not respond at all to being held, touched, or talked to.
    • May be hard to wake up.

    A baby that is sick (but not extremely sick):

    • May be sleepier than usual.
    • May not eat or drink as much as usual.

    Call 911 Now

    Based on your answers, you need emergency care.

    Call 911 or other emergency services now.

    Severe dehydration means:

    • Your mouth and eyes may be extremely dry.
    • You may pass little or no urine for 12 or more hours.
    • You may not feel alert or be able to think clearly.
    • You may be too weak or dizzy to stand.
    • You may pass out.

    Moderate dehydration means:

    • You may be a lot more thirsty than usual.
    • Your mouth and eyes may be drier than usual.
    • You may pass little or no urine for 8 or more hours.
    • You may feel dizzy when you stand or sit up.

    Mild dehydration means:

    • You may be more thirsty than usual.
    • You may pass less urine than usual.

    Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:

    • Diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS.
    • Long-term alcohol and drug problems.
    • Steroid medicines, which may be used to treat a variety of conditions.
    • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.
    • Other medicines used to treat autoimmune disease.
    • Medicines taken after organ transplant.
    • Not having a spleen.

    Severe trouble breathing means:

    • You cannot talk at all.
    • You have to work very hard to breathe.
    • You feel like you can't get enough air.
    • You do not feel alert or cannot think clearly.

    Moderate trouble breathing means:

    • It's hard to talk in full sentences.
    • It's hard to breathe with activity.

    Mild trouble breathing means:

    • You feel a little out of breath but can still talk.
    • It's becoming hard to breathe with activity.

    Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:

    • You may feel a little out of breath but still be able to talk (mild difficulty breathing), or you may be so out of breath that you cannot talk at all (severe difficulty breathing).
    • It may be getting hard to breathe with activity (mild difficulty breathing), or you may have to work very hard to breathe even when you?re at rest (severe difficulty breathing).

    Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:

    • Your age. Babies and older adults tend to get sicker quicker.
    • Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care sooner.
    • Medicines you take. Certain medicines, herbal remedies, and supplements can cause symptoms or make them worse.
    • Recent health events, such as surgery or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them more serious.
    • Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug use, sexual history, and travel.

    Temperature varies a little depending on how you measure it. For adults and children age 12 and older, these are the ranges for high, moderate, and mild, according to how you took the temperature.

    Oral (by mouth) temperature

    • High: 104 F (40 C) and higher
    • Moderate: 100.4 F (38 C) to 103.9 F (39.9 C)
    • Mild: 100.3 F (37.9 C) and lower

    Ear or rectal temperature

    • High: 105 F (40.6 C) and higher
    • Moderate: 101.4 F (38.6 C) to 104.9 F (40.5 C)
    • Mild: 101.3 F (38.5 C) and lower

    Armpit (axillary) temperature

    • High: 103F (39.5C) and higher
    • Moderate: 99.4 F (37.4 C) to 102.9 F (39.4 C)
    • Mild: 99.3F (37.3C) and lower

    Temperature varies a little depending on how you measure it. For children up to 11 years old, here are the ranges for high, moderate, and mild according to how you took the temperature.

    Oral (by mouth), ear, or rectal temperature

    • High: 104 F (40 C) and higher
    • Moderate: 100.4 F (38 C) to 103.9 F (39.9 C)
    • Mild: 100.3 F (37.9 C) and lower

    Armpit (axillary) temperature

    • High: 103F (39.5C) and higher
    • Moderate: 99.4 F (37.4 C) to 102.9 F (39.4 C)
    • Mild: 99.3F (37.3C) and lower

    Note: For children under 5 years old, rectal temperatures are the most accurate.

    Seek Care Now

    Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.

    • Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
    • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care in the next hour.
    • You do not need to call an ambulance unless:
      • You cannot travel safely either by driving yourself or by having someone else drive you.
      • You are in an area where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.
    Mouth Problems, Noninjury

    Severe dehydration means:

    • The baby may be very sleepy and hard to wake up.
    • The baby may have a very dry mouth and very dry eyes (no tears).
    • The baby may have no wet diapers in 12 or more hours.

    Moderate dehydration means:

    • The baby may have no wet diapers in 6 hours.
    • The baby may have a dry mouth and dry eyes (fewer tears than usual).

    Mild dehydration means:

    • The baby may pass a little less urine than usual.

    Seek Care Today

    Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.

    • Call your doctor today to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
    • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care today.
    • If it is evening, watch the symptoms and seek care in the morning.
    • If the symptoms get worse, seek care sooner.

    Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in children are:

    • Diseases such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, and congenital heart disease.
    • Steroid medicines, which are used to treat a variety of conditions.
    • Medicines taken after organ transplant.
    • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.
    • Not having a spleen.

    Pain in adults and older children

    • Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain is so bad that you can't stand it for more than a few hours, can't sleep, and can't do anything else except focus on the pain.
    • Moderate pain (5 to 7): The pain is bad enough to disrupt your normal activities and your sleep, but you can tolerate it for hours or days. Moderate can also mean pain that comes and goes even if it's severe when it's there.
    • Mild pain (1 to 4): You notice the pain, but it is not bad enough to disrupt your sleep or activities.

    You can get dehydrated when you lose a lot of fluids because of problems like vomiting or fever.

    Symptoms of dehydration can range from mild to severe. For example:

    • You may feel tired and edgy (mild dehydration), or you may feel weak, not alert, and not able to think clearly (severe dehydration).
    • You may pass less urine than usual (mild dehydration), or you may not be passing urine at all (severe dehydration).

    Make an Appointment

    Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.

    • Make an appointment to see your doctor in the next 1 to 2 weeks.
    • If appropriate, try home treatment while you are waiting for the appointment.
    • If symptoms get worse or you have any concerns, call your doctor. You may need care sooner.

    If you're not sure if a child's fever is high, moderate, or mild, think about these issues:

    With a high fever:

    • The child feels very hot.
    • It is likely one of the highest fevers the child has ever had.

    With a moderate fever:

    • The child feels warm or hot.
    • You are sure the child has a fever.

    With a mild fever:

    • The child may feel a little warm.
    • You think the child might have a fever, but you're not sure.

    Try Home Treatment

    You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.

    • Try home treatment to relieve the symptoms.
    • Call your doctor if symptoms get worse or you have any concerns (for example, if symptoms are not getting better as you would expect). You may need care sooner.

    Pain in children under 3 years

    It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.

    • Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain is so bad that the baby cannot sleep, cannot get comfortable, and cries constantly no matter what you do. The baby may kick, make fists, or grimace.
    • Moderate pain (5 to 7): The baby is very fussy, clings to you a lot, and may have trouble sleeping but responds when you try to comfort him or her.
    • Mild pain (1 to 4): The baby is a little fussy and clings to you a little but responds when you try to comfort him or her.

    If you're not sure if a fever is high, moderate, or mild, think about these issues:

    With a high fever:

    • You feel very hot.
    • It is likely one of the highest fevers you've ever had. High fevers are not that common, especially in adults.

    With a moderate fever:

    • You feel warm or hot.
    • You know you have a fever.

    With a mild fever:

    • You may feel a little warm.
    • You think you might have a fever, but you're not sure.

    Severe trouble breathing means:

    • The child cannot eat or talk because he or she is breathing so hard.
    • The child's nostrils are flaring and the belly is moving in and out with every breath.
    • The child seems to be tiring out.
    • The child seems very sleepy or confused.

    Moderate trouble breathing means:

    • The child is breathing a lot faster than usual.
    • The child has to take breaks from eating or talking to breathe.
    • The nostrils flare or the belly moves in and out at times when the child breathes.

    Mild trouble breathing means:

    • The child is breathing a little faster than usual.
    • The child seems a little out of breath but can still eat or talk.

    Babies can quickly get dehydrated when they lose fluids because of problems like vomiting or fever.

    Symptoms of dehydration can range from mild to severe. For example:

    • The baby may be fussy or cranky (mild dehydration), or the baby may be very sleepy and hard to wake up (severe dehydration).
    • The baby may have a little less urine than usual (mild dehydration), or the baby may not be urinating at all (severe dehydration).

    Symptoms of difficulty breathing in a baby or young child can range from mild to severe. For example:

    • The child may be breathing a little faster than usual (mild difficulty breathing), or the child may be having so much trouble that the nostrils are flaring and the belly is moving in and out with every breath (severe difficulty breathing).
    • The child may seem a little out of breath but is still able to eat or talk (mild difficulty breathing), or the child may be breathing so hard that he or she cannot eat or talk (severe difficulty breathing).

    Sudden drooling and trouble swallowing can be signs of a serious problem called epiglottitis. This problem can happen at any age.

    The epiglottis is a flap of tissue at the back of the throat that you can't see when you look in the mouth. When you swallow, it closes to keep food and fluids out of the tube (trachea) that leads to the lungs. If the epiglottis becomes inflamed or infected, it can swell and quickly block the airway. This makes it very hard to breathe.

    The symptoms start suddenly. A person with epiglottitis is likely to seem very sick, have a fever, drool, and have trouble breathing, swallowing, and making sounds. In the case of a child, you may notice the child trying to sit up and lean forward with his or her jaw forward, because it's easier to breathe in this position.

    You can use a small rubber bulb (called an aspirating bulb) to remove mucus from your baby's nose or mouth when a cold or allergies make it hard for the baby to eat, sleep, or breathe.

    To use the bulb:

    1. Put a few saline nose drops in each side of the baby's nose before you start.
    2. Position the baby with his or her head tilted slightly back.
    3. Squeeze the round base of the bulb.
    4. Gently insert the tip of the bulb tightly inside the baby's nose.
    5. Release the bulb to remove (suction) mucus from the nose.

    Don't do this more than 5 or 6 times a day. Doing it too often can make the congestion worse and can also cause the lining of the nose to swell or bleed.

    Mouth and Dental Injuries

    Home Treatment

    Home treatment is usually all that is needed for a sore throat caused by a virus. These tips may help you feel better.

    • Gargle with warm salt water to help reduce swelling and relieve discomfort:
      • Gargle at least once each hour with 1 tsp (5 g) of salt dissolved in 8 fl oz (240 mL) of warm water.
      • If you have postnasal drip, gargle often to prevent more throat irritation.
    • Prevent dehydration . Fluids may help thin secretions and soothe an irritated throat. Hot fluids, such as tea or soup, may help decrease throat irritation.
    • Use a vaporizer or humidifier in your bedroom.
      • Warm or cool mist may help you feel more comfortable by soothing the swollen air passages. It may also relieve hoarseness. But don't let your room become uncomfortably cold or very damp.
      • Use a shallow pan of water to provide moisture in the air through evaporation if you don't have a humidifier. Place the pan in a safe location where no one will trip on it or fall into it.
    • Do not smoke or use other tobacco products and avoid secondhand smoke . For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
    • If you suspect that problems with stomach acid may be causing your sore throat, see the topic Heartburn.

    Consider taking nonprescription medicine for your symptoms.

    • Use nonprescription throat lozenges.
      • Some nonprescription throat lozenges, such as Sucrets Maximum Strength or Spec-T, are safe and effective and have medicine (local anesthetic) that numbs the throat to soothe pain.
      • Regular cough drops may also help.
    • Use a decongestant.
      • Decongestants make breathing easier by shrinking swollen mucous membranes in the nose, allowing air to pass through. They also help relieve a runny nose and postnasal drip, which can cause a sore throat.
      • Decongestants can be taken orally or used as decongestant nasal sprays. Oral decongestants (pills) are probably more effective and provide longer relief but may cause more side effects.
      • These medicines may not be safe for young children or for people who have certain health problems. Before you use them, check the label. If you do use these medicines, always follow the directions about how much to use based on age and in some cases weight. For more information about medicine safety, see Over-the-Counter Medicine Precautions and Quick Tips: Giving Over-the-Counter Medicines to Children.
    Medicine you can buy without a prescription
    Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
    Safety tips
    Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
    • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
    • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
    • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
    • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
    • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
    • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

    More home treatment can be found in topics related to sore throat.

    Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

    Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

    • Difficulty breathing develops.
    • Severe pain develops.
    • Inability to drink enough fluids develops.
    • A new rash or fever develops.
    • Symptoms lasting longer than 2 weeks.
    • Symptoms become more severe or more frequent.

    Prevention

    There is no sure way to prevent a sore throat. To help reduce your risk:

    • Drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration .
    • Wash your hands often, especially when you are around people who are sick.
    • Identify and avoid irritants, such as smoke, fumes, or yelling, that cause a sore throat.
    • Do not smoke or use other tobacco products and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke . For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
    • Avoid contact with people who have strep throat .
    • If you have mononucleosis , do not share eating or drinking utensils to prevent spreading the virus to others. A brief kiss on the lips is not likely to spread mono; it is spread when saliva from an infected person enters another person's mouth.

    Preparing For Your Appointment

    To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

    You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being ready to answer the following questions:

    • When did your throat symptoms begin?
    • Do you have a fever? Describe your fever pattern.
    • Do other family members, friends, or coworkers have similar complaints?
    • Do you have other symptoms associated with the sore throat, such as a head cold?
    • What makes the pain worse?
    • Have you had your tonsils removed?
    • Have you been diagnosed with strep throat in the past? How long ago? Was it found during a doctor visit, with a rapid strep test or with a throat culture? How was it treated?
    • What immunizations have you had?
    • What home treatment have you tried? Did it help?
    • What prescription and nonprescription medicines have you tried? Did they help?
    • Do you have any health risks?

    Related Information

    Credits

    By Healthwise Staff
    William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
    David Messenger, MD
    Last Revised November 3, 2013

    Last Revised: November 3, 2013

    This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

    1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.