Sore throat
Sore throat

Sore throats are very common and usually nothing to worry about. They normally get better by themselves within a week.

How to treat a sore throat yourself

To help soothe a sore throat and shorten how long it lasts you can:

  • gargle with warm salty water (children shouldn't try this)
  • drink plenty of water
  • eat cool or soft foods
  • avoid smoking or smoky places
  • suck ice cubes, ice lollies or hard sweets - but don't give young children anything small and hard to suck because of the risk of choking
  • rest

If you have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to do your normal activities, try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people until you feel better.

How to gargle with salt water

  1. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water - warm water helps salt dissolve.
  2. Gargle with the solution then spit it out - don't swallow it.
  3. Repeat as often as you like.

A pharmacist can help with sore throats

You can ask a pharmacist about ways of relieving the pain and discomfort of a sore throat, such as:

  • use paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • medicated lozenges containing a local anaesthetic, antisepetic, or anti-inflammatory medicine
  • anaesthetic sprays (although there's little proof they help)

You can buy these treatments from a supermarket or from a pharmacist without a prescription.

Find a pharmacy

See a GP if:

  • your sore throat doesn't improve after a week
  • you often get sore throats
  • you're worried about your sore throat
  • you have a sore throat and a very high temperature, or you feel hot and shivery
  • you have a weakened immune system - for example, because of diabetes or chemotherapy

A severe or long-lasting sore throat could be something like strep throat (a bacterial infection).


GPs don't normally prescribe antibiotics for sore throats because they won't usually relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery.

They'll only be prescribed if your GP thinks you could have a bacterial infection.

Call 999 if:

  • you have difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • you're drooling - this can be a sign of not being able to swallow
  • you're making a high-pitched sound as you breathe (called stridor)
  • your symptoms are severe and getting worse quickly

Sore throat symptoms

If you have a sore throat you might have:

  • a painful throat, especially when swallowing
  • a dry, scratchy throat
  • redness in the back of your mouth
  • bad breath
  • a mild cough
  • swollen neck glands

The symptoms are similar for children, but children can also get a temperature and appear less active.

Causes and symptoms of sore throats

Sore throats are usually caused by viruses (like cold or flu) or from smoking. Very occasionally they can be caused by bacteria.

A sort throat can also be caused by:

There are now some pharmacies in Wales that offer a swab test if you are suffering with a sore throat. If you think you need a prescription, before ringing for a GP appointment, visit the Find a pharmacy page to search for local pharmacies that can provide the Sore Throat Test and Treat service.  This service will need to be provided by an accredited pharmacist, and it is strongly advised that you contact the pharmacy prior to attending to ensure that the service is available on the day you intend visiting.

The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website nhs.uk
Last Updated: 25/11/2022 12:13:03