Discover potential causes & symptoms of a sore throat, plus our top tips to help you soothe the pain

A sore throat can be uncomfortable and irritating, making it hard to eat and drink or get a good night’s sleep, and generally makes you feel unwell. While most symptoms of a sore throat go within one week, there are a few things you can try to help soothe the pain. 

Causes of pain in the throat

Most sore throats are caused by viruses including cold and flu, or from smoking. In rarer cases it can be caused by a bacterial infection.

Other causes include:

• Tonsillitis – an infection of the tonsils at the back of your throat

• Laryngitis – when your voice box or vocal cords in the back of the throat become irritated or swollen 

• Strep throat – a bacterial throat infection

• Glandular fever – a viral infection which mostly affects young adults

Usually the symptoms of a sore throat should be nothing to cause concern – but it’s important to see your GP if your symptoms are severe, your sore throat doesn’t clear up after a week or you have constant pain.

What does a sore throat feel like? 

The main symptoms of a sore throat are pain, especially when swallowing and  dryness or irritation in the throat,. You might also find you experience:

• Redness in the back of your mouth

• Bad breath 

• A mild cough

• Swollen neck glands

Treating a sore throat

Sore throats are common but their symptoms can be very unpleasant. Here are some tips to help soothe a sore throat:

• Painkillers – paracetamol, for example, can help relieve pain

• Keep hydrated by drinking lots of cold or lukewarm non-alcoholic drinks

• Choose your food carefully by eating soft, cool foods that won’t hurt your throat, and avoid hot drinks

• Adults can gargle warm, salty water to help soothe a sore throat

• Avoid smoking and smoky places

You should 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

You should call 999 if you or your child:

• Have difficulty swallowing or breathing

• Are drooling – this can be a sign of not being able to swallow 

• Are making high-pitched sounds as you breathe (called stridor) 

• Have severe symptoms and are getting worse quickly 


Sore throats & tonsillitis

Sore throats are very common and are often the first sign of a cold. They tend to get better on their own in less than a week and are usually nothing to worry about

Cold & flu remedies

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