The symptoms of a sore throat will depend on the cause. Common signs and symptoms might include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sore, swollen glands in your neck or jaw
- Swollen, red tonsils
- White patches or pus on your tonsils
- A hoarse or muffled voice
Sore throats are usually caused by a virus such as the cold or flu but less often they can be caused by bacteria.
Viral illnesses that cause a sore throat include:
- Common cold
- Glandular fever
A number of bacterial infections can cause a sore throat. The most common is Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus) which causes strep throat. Tonsillitis, and can also cause a sore throat.
Other causes of a sore throat include allergies, dryness, irritants, muscle strain, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.
There are many ways to help soothe a sore throat and shorten how long it lasts, for example, gargling with warm salty water, eating cool or soft foods, resting and avoiding smoking or smoky places.
You can take medicines to relieve the pain of a sore throat, or to treat the underlying cause.
You can also use one or more of these treatments, which work directly on the pain of a sore throat:
- Sore throat spray that contains a numbing antiseptic (Difflam or Chloroseptic)
- Throat lozenges (Strepsils or Decquadin)
- Mouthwash (Oraldene)
In most cases, antibiotics will only be prescribed if your GP thinks you have a bacterial infection.
Treatment for sore throats is available through the Pharmacy First scheme.