How To Treat a Sore Throat

patient with sore throat examined by nurse

Each year, millions of Americans are likely to experience a case of sore throat that can cause a wide variety of uncomfortable symptoms. In some cases, a sore throat could be the sign of a potentially significant bacterial or viral infection. Whatever the case may be, it is important to understand how to treat any sore throat. 

Sore throat, or pharyngitis, is most commonly caused by the influenza and common cold viruses, according to the Mayo Clinic and other leading healthcare organizations. A sore throat may also result from other foreign bacterial infections or over-exhaustion of the pharynx. 

Identifying a sore throat is simple: just keep track of your symptoms as they progress with a scratchy or noticeably painful throat. Sore throat usually leads to difficulty swallowing, swollen tonsils, muffled voice, and cough. 

Additionally, seasonal illness symptoms like fever, congestion, headaches, runny nose, and sneezing can occur if your sore throat is caused by a virus. Uncommon symptoms in severe cases may include nausea, rash, earache, and other physical ailments. 

The good news for most patients is that sore throat is easily manageable with a little pro-activity, self care, and follow-up care! Unless you are experiencing extreme symptoms, most patients can manage their sore throat at home. 

However, the spread of unverified medical information and common health myths can cause patients to mismanage their sore throat symptoms. Make sure you consult your nearest healthcare provider if you have any questions about at home remedies, self care, and other sore throat complications. 

Here are the actions you’ll need to take in order to manage your sore throat symptoms: 

Step 1: Evaluate the Severity of Your Sore Throat 

patient has irritating sore throat

Self-diagnosis is a simple and important first step to determine if you have a sore throat, as well as the potential severity of it. Many patients may have signs of a sore throat as well as other symptoms of a viral infection. The first signs to look out for include congestion, sneezing, difficulty swallowing, and fever. Throughout the day, check to see if pain in the back of your throat is progressing. 

If possible, use a mirror to see if there is significant redness or swelling of the tonsils. Redness of the throat is a strong indicator of a sore throat, or another seasonal illness, since a patient’s throat is normally a pinkish color. Also check to see if your throat has any unusual spots or discolorations. These discolorations may be another sign of a virus or bacterial infection. 

A sore throat is usually a sign of a more significant illness such as a case of the flu, strep throat, common cold, bronchitis, or another disease. Most patients will gradually develop sore throat with normal cold and flu symptoms. However, symptoms are likely to get more intense and bothersome over the next few days and weeks. 

Step 2: Get Rest and Stay at Home 

patient with fever rests at home

Patients need to rest at home if their sore throat, and other cold & flu symptoms, lead to consistent headache, fever, fatigue, and inability to focus. An extremely irritable sore throat requires plenty of rest because your immune system is working harder than normal to fight off viruses or bacteria.

A patient that tries to go to work, school, or elsewhere with a sore throat will take longer to recover than a patient that gets rest. As your body exerts energy to perform daily tasks, it becomes that much harder for your immune system to fight off illnesses. In addition, individuals may not be able to complete daily tasks to the best of their ability due to fatigue and pain. 

Anyone that has a sore throat should also take a few sick days in order to reduce the spread of a virus or pathogen. Workplaces, schools, and other public spaces are more likely to spread diseases at a rapid rate when patients don’t take the time to recover at home. 

Step 3: Drink Plenty of Fluids and Eat Soothing Foods 

Sore throat patients should also ensure that they are getting plenty of fluids and eating soothing foods that alleviate irritation. Hydration and frequent meals are also paramount to alleviating your sore throat quickly. 

Most patients know that eating hearty soups and broths can help soothe your throat, while also providing ample energy to fight off a seasonal illness. Warm, mild beverages such as hot tea or hot cocoa can also help provide relief from an inflamed throat, scratchiness, and other ailments of a sore throat.  

Patients with a sore throat also need to drink plenty of water throughout the day since dehydration can dramatically worsen symptoms. Dryness can lead to greater pain and irritation, so make sure to drink water consistently throughout the day. Ample water consumption also helps your body fight of viruses and other potential causes of the flu. Diseases and viruses may cause the body to lose water at a faster rate, so replenishing these fluids is crucial.  

Step 4: Use Over-The-Counter Medicines as Instructed 

Many over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can help to alleviate sore throat throughout the day. However, it is important to use OTC medications as instructed to safely alleviate consistent sore throat symptoms. Find specific cough and cold medicines that treat sore throat and use as instructed to help relieve pain and inflammation in the throat. 

OTC medications include antihistamines, cold and flu relievers, ibuprofen, cough syrup, and other common products in your pharmacy’s cold and flu isle. There are several brands to choose from, but all of them contain the same ingredients to relieve your sore throat symptoms. OTC medications are available for patients 18 and older to purchase freely since they are approved for general use by the FDA and don’t require a prescription. 

Even though OTC medications are safe for most patients, it is important to always use as instructed. Abusing or taking excessive dosages of over-the-counter medicines can lead to health complications and even drug dependency. 

Step 5: Visit an Urgent Care or Non-Ambulatory Clinic for follow-up treatment 

Even when patients try to treat their sore throat symptoms at home, it may require healthcare intervention to help diagnose and treat a sore throat that lasts for more than a week. If your symptoms are still affecting you after this time then consider going to an urgent care center! 

Urgent care centers are equipped with a walk-in clinic to assist patients with non-emergency, but immediate medical needs. For example, a patient with a sore throat can visit an urgent care and then get seen by a doctor or provider in a few minutes. An urgent care center provides high-quality care at a fraction of the cost of a traditional provider with more efficiency. 

Visiting a non-ambulatory clinic can also help to diagnose the cause of your sore throat or illness with a lab test as well. This test can identify specific diseases to help coordinate your next steps for treatment.