Sore throats can be extremely annoying when they strike. They cause an itchy, scratchy or irritated feeling that is often worse when you try to swallow or speak.
However, they’re usually nothing to worry about. They’re often simply a sign that your immune system is busy trying to fight off an illness and tend to get better within a week.
In the meantime, there are many ways you can soothe your sore throat and get on with the rest of your busy life. Let’s take a closer look at this common health problem.
What causes a sore throat?
The most common cause of a sore throat (pharyngitis) is a viral infection such as a cold, flu, chickenpox or coronavirus. If this is the case, antibiotics won’t work and you simply need to treat your symptoms until your immune system deals with the problem.
[If you are concerned that you may have coronavirus (COVID-19), follow current UK government guidelines regarding testing and self-isolation]
Occasionally a sore throat can be caused by a bacterial infection such as Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus), although this is much rarer. This will require antibiotics.
There is also a wide range of environmental factors that could cause your symptoms. This includes:
Allergies to dust, pollen, mould or pets.
Dry indoor air
Breathing through your mouth
Outdoor or indoor air pollution
Eating spicy foods or drinking alcohol
Talking loudly, shouting or talking for extended periods
How to treat a sore throat
There are many ways you can treat a sore throat at home and ease your symptoms.
Stay hydrated- aim to drink 2 litres of water per day, sipping often.
Eat cool, soft foods that don’t irritate your throat
Suck throat lozenges, hard sweets, ice or ice lollies [Buy here]
Gargle with warm, salty water
How your pharmacist can help with a sore throat
Here at Whitworth Pharmacy, we know how to help you solve your health issues and get fighting fit again. If you need to ask about treatments for your sore throat or need advice, pop into your local branch for a chat with one of our friendly pharmacists.
When should you see your doctor about your sore throat?
Usually, a sore throat is nothing to worry about and you won’t need a course of antibiotics. However, you should see your GP if:
Your symptoms don’t improve after a week
You have a very high temperature
You’re worried about your sore throat
You often suffer from sore throats
You have a weakened immune system due to diabetes, HIV or chemotherapy
However, if you have difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, start drooling or you’re making a high-pitched sound as you breathe, you should call for an ambulance on 999.
How can you prevent a sore throat?
You can protect yourself against sore throats by maintaining good hygiene to avoid catching the bugs in the first place. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get sick, but it can help. Follow these tips:
Wash your hands frequently with soap
Avoid touching your face
Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow
Use hand sanitiser gel [Buy here].
Take a zinc supplement to help boost your immune system [Buy here].
Wear a face mask when in enclosed public places [Buy here].
Avoid sharing food, glasses or utensils
Avoid contact with people who are sick
Regularly clean your light switches, doorknobs, remote controls, computer keyboards and phones.
Sore throats are a common symptom of viral infections, environmental irritation and occasionally a bacterial infection. Follow the self-care tips we’ve shared here, visit your friendly pharmacist for advice and visit your GP if you have any serious concerns.