Isn’t a sore throat the worst? It hurts to talk, eat, drink, breathe – live! It’s possible that you have a throat infection, but most sore throats are caused by a virus (as opposed to a bacterial infection) and just need to run their course – you don’t need antibiotics. I feel your pain but I promise it will get better as the virus goes away and you get a little sore throat treatment.
Things you are likely feeling: scratchy throat, swollen throat, sore throat with or without a fever, sore throat and a cough. It is painful and hurts to swallow. Your voice may be hoarse, you might notice the lymph nodes on the sides of your neck/jaw are swollen, and your throat is likely red or inflamed. You may even see white patches on the back of your throat. A lot of the accompanying symptoms are caused by the virus, including:
- Body aches
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Nausea and/or vomiting
How long does a sore throat last?
- Typically 4-5 days, which will feel like a lifetime, I know. While there’s no true way to cure a sore throat, there are ways to soothe a sore throat and make things a little more tolerable.
- How to get rid of a sore throat?
- Drink fluids! Add warm drinks such as tea or broth, as well as increasing your water intake. Cold options can feel good too, such as popsicles or ice cream. (Apparently we should avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they can dehydrate you. Sorry to share the bad news, Mom and Dad.)
- Salt water gargle. Adults and kids 6 years and up can try this to soothe a sore throat. Mix ¼ teaspoon of salt with 8 oz of warm water. Gargle and spit it out!
- Cool-mist humidifiers can moisten the air and help prevent a dry throat, which never helps when it is sore. The warm-mist humidifiers increase the risk of a burn, either from the hot steam or from a water spill. It is not proven to be more effective than the cool-mist humidifiers because the heat dissipates too quickly to make a difference by the time we are breathing it in. So go with safety and choose the cool-mist option!
- Hard candy has been shown to soothe a sore throat and be just as effective as a cough drop. Choking hazard here so use your best judgement if offering to a kiddo.
- Rest! Let that body heal while you sleep it out.
- Tylenol or ibuprofen can help with discomfort.
- No medications for babes <3 months old. Call the doc!
- No ibuprofen for babes <6 months old.
- No aspirin <18 years old.
Remember, if this is a virus, antibiotics for a sore throat aren’t needed. If you’re worried it could be something more (like the dreaded Strep Throat), see the signs below on when to call the doc!
When to call your doctor if you have a sore throat?
- Sore throat for 5 days without improvement.
- Sore throat in kiddos <2 years old.
- Recent exposure to someone with strep throat.
- Blisters, pus, or petechiae (red dots) on the back of the throat.
- Fever, depending on age:
- 0-3 months: >100.4 F
- 3-24 months: >102 F
- 2 years+: >104 F
- Signs of dehydration: dry mouth, dry skin, decreased urination.
- Is something else going on? Ear pain? Neck pain? Sinus pain? Rash? Follow your gut and call.
Remember, we’ve got info to help you with ANY symptom! So use your Kinsa app to share more symptoms with me – that’s what I’m here for and nothing makes me happier than helping people feel better!
When to skip the phone call and head to the ER?
- Trouble breathing
- Drooling or difficulty swallowing
- Fever >105 F
Along with a virus, a sore throat could be caused by allergies, irritants such as chemicals or smoke, acid reflux, dry air – especially if you notice it first thing in the morning and you’re a mouth-breather (try the humidifier!) – or other things that we aren’t going to stress ourselves out with here. Knowledge is power but too much of it can make us worry, so focus on your current symptoms and just talk with your doctor if you think something more is going on.
Like I said, most sore throats are caused by a virus so always wash your hands, tell those around you to wash their hands, and disinfect the daylights out of your environment. Keep this misery to one person in the household and just hang in there. 24-48 hours should be the worst of it, then hopefully you’ll be on the mend through the rest of the week. I’ll join you with a bowl of ice cream for solidarity’s sake.
Blake Wageman, RN, BSN has over 11 years of nursing under her belt, primarily focused on NICU babies and, just as importantly, their worried parents. She also has two daughters who have kept her on her toes from birth all the way into their tween years. Blake’s passion is giving parents not only the information, but also the comfort and confidence they need to make good decisions for their kiddos.
This content is intended for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from an appropriately qualified and licensed physician or other healthcare provider.