Sore throats

Sore throats occur when an infection causes the lining of the throat to swell, which in turn makes it sore and difficult to swallow. They are normally caused by either a viral or bacterial infection.

A sore throat is commonly spread by sharing drinks, kissing, coughing, nose blowing and sneezing.

The majority of sore throats are caused by a viral infection. They tend to be more common in winter when we spend more time indoors in contact with other people, enabling germs to spread rapidly.

Viral infections usually last only a few days, as the body is normally able to fight off the infection by itself.

Sore throats caused by a bacterial infection are often more troublesome and can lead to conditions such as tonsillitis or ear infections. The bacteria that cause the majority of sore throats is called streptococcus. In most cases antibiotic treatment prescribed by a GP will be the only successful treatment.

Other reasons for a sore throat include pollution, changes in temperature, smoking and overuse of the vocal cords.

The symptoms associated with a sore throat can include:

  • Painful red throat.
  • Swollen tonsils.
  • Difficulty in swallowing.
  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Neck stiffness.


Sore throats caused by a virus often clear up quickly on their own whereas a bacterial infection may require you to consult your GP.

A wide range of over the counter products are available which are useful for relieving the pain of a sore throat including lozenges, gargles and throat sprays.

Lozenges often contain an antibacterial agent and a local anaesthetic. The large amounts of saliva produced when sucking the lozenge along with the ingredients help to soothe the throat by lubricating the throat and washing off the infective organisms.

Throat sprays often contain anaesthetic, which act directly on the throat to provide immediate relief.

Other suggestions to help releive a sore throat include:

  • Taking a painkiller such as paracetamol or aspirin (16 plus).
  • Drinking plenty of non-alcoholic fluids.
  • Gargling with warm salty water.
  • Gargling with soluble aspirin (16 plus).
  • Drinking honey or lemon tea.
  • Don’t smoke.

If your symptoms persist for longer than three days then speak to your doctor or pharmacist.


The information provided on this website does not replace medical advice.

If you want to find out more, or are worried about any medical issue or symptoms that you may be experiencing, please contact our pharmacist or see your doctor.

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