Infection by bacteria or a virus causes most sore throats. Cigarette smoke, dry air, air pollution, allergies, and yelling can also cause a sore throat. Sore throats can be painful and annoying. Fortunately, most sore throats go away on their own. If you have a bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
How can you care for yourself at home?
If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
Gargle with warm salt water once an hour to help reduce swelling and relieve discomfort. Use 1 teaspoon of salt mixed in 1 cup of warm water.
Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label.
Be careful when taking over-the-counter cold or flu medicines and Tylenol at the same time. Many of these medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Read the labels to make sure that you are not taking more than the recommended dose. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
Drink plenty of fluids. Fluids may help soothe an irritated throat. Hot fluids, such as tea or soup, may help decrease throat pain.
Use over-the-counter throat lozenges to soothe pain. Regular cough drops or hard candy may also help. These should not be given to young children because of the risk of choking.
Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
Use a vaporizer or humidifier to add moisture to your bedroom. Follow the directions for cleaning the machine.
When should you call for help?
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
You have new or worse trouble swallowing.
Your sore throat gets much worse on one side.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you do not get better as expected.
Care instructions adapted under license by Kaiser Permanente. This care instruction is for use with your licensed healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.