Sore Throat | Treatment

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What is the treatment for a sore throat caused by bacteria?

If your sore throat is caused by bacteria, your family doctor will probably prescribe an antibiotic. You will most likely begin to feel better in a few days, but it is very important to take all the antibiotics your doctor prescribes. This reduces the risk that your sore throat will return and also helps prevent antibiotic resistance.

What is the treatment for a sore throat caused by a virus?

Antibiotics don't work against viruses. Infections caused by viruses usually just have to run their course. Most symptoms caused by a cold-type virus go away in a week to 10 days.

Symptoms caused by mono can last for 4 weeks or more. If you have mono, your doctor will probably suggest that you get plenty of rest and that you not exercise too hard. You can take acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol), ibuprofen (some brand names: Advil, Motrin, Nuprin) or naproxen (one brand name: Aleve) for the sore throat, headache and fever. Children should not take aspirin. Aspirin can cause a serious illness called Reye's syndrome when it is given to children younger than 18 years of age.

What about a sore throat that's caused by allergies?

If a sore throat is a symptom of hay fever or another allergy, your doctor can help you figure out how to avoid the things that trigger your allergies. You may also need to take medicine for your allergies.

Easing the pain of a sore throat

  • Take acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol) or ibuprofen (one brand name: Motrin) to relieve pain. Children should not take aspirin. Aspirin can cause a serious illness called Reye's syndrome when it is given to children younger than 18 years of age.
  • Gargle with warm salt water (1 teaspoon of salt per 1 cup [8 ounces] of water).
  • Suck on throat lozenges or hard candy.
  • Suck on flavored frozen desserts (such as Popsicles).
  • Use a humidifier in your bedroom or other rooms you spend lots of time in.
  • Drink lots of liquids. They help keep your throat lubricated and prevent dehydration.

If I have tonsillitis, will I need a tonsillectomy?

Tonsillectomy is a surgery that removes the tonsils. Most people who have tonsillitis don't need a tonsillectomy. You might need a tonsillectomy if you get severe tonsillitis often or if your tonsils are too large and cause problems with your breathing. Your doctor can tell you if a tonsillectomy is needed.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 01/11
Created: 01/96

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