Treating a sore throat
Usually no specific treatment is required if you have viral pharyngitis (such as mono), which usually clears up within a week.
Bacterial infections such as strep throat can be effectively treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics do not help with viral infections.
For chronic pharyngitis (persistent pain due to a respiratory, sinus, or mouth infection spreading to the throat), your doctor should treat the primary source of infection.
Home sore throat relief
Most sore throats will go away by themselves after a few days and can be effectively treated at home.
To relieve the pain and discomfort of a sore throat, you could try the following:
- Get a lot of rest.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Gargle with warm salt water or some other home-made gargle to wash away mucus and irritants.
- Avoid smoking cigarettes.
- Eat largely soft foods for a couple of days to avoid irritating your throat.
- Suck non-prescription lozenges containing a mild anaesthetic. Zinc lozenges can relieve sore throats and other cold symptoms. Mildly anaesthetic sprays and mouthwashes are also available over the counter.
- If mouth breathing or dry air causes your sore throat, try using a humidifier in your home.
- If your nose is blocked, use a nasal spray to prevent mouth breathing. (Caution: using these products for more than a couple of days may result in dependency. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, check with a doctor before using any decongestant products.)
- Apply a warm heating pad, compress or salt plaster to your throat.
- Try steam inhalations.
- When necessary, use mild pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen. (Caution: do not give aspirin to a child or young adult. Aspirin has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but serious condition.)
- If your sore throat is so severe that it makes breathing or eating difficult, your doctor may give you prednisone, a steroid drug.
- For acute bacterial pharyngitis (such as strep throat), your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics:
- Penicillin or some other antibiotic such as erythromycin is commonly prescribed for seven to 10 days.
- You will feel better after taking antibiotics for 24 hours – but it is important to complete the full course of antibiotics, even after symptoms disappear.
- Antibiotics may not always shorten the course of the disease, but they will kill the bacteria and cut down the risk of serious strep complications.