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Sore throats have multiple causes, but in 85–95% of cases, the culprit is a viral infection. This means that up to 95% of sore throats will go away on their own, without antibiotics, usually within 7 to 10 days.
Try home remedies to help ease your pain while the sore throat runs its course.
- Drink warm liquids.
- Gargle with warm, salty water (about 1 tsp. of salt per glass of water).
- Suck on throat lozenges or hard candy.
- Use a cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier to add moisture to the air and help a dry throat.
- Use over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®). Avoid giving aspirin to children.
When does a sore throat require a trip to your doctor? Be sure to call your health care provider if you experience any of the following:
- severe difficulty swallowing or breathing
- excessive drooling in a young child
- fever, especially 101° F. or greater
- tender or swollen lymph glands in the neck
- pus in the back of the throat
- a red rash that feels rough, and increased redness in the skin folds
If your doctor suspects a bacterial infection (such as strep), he or she may perform a rapid strep test or take a throat culture. If an antibiotic is prescribed, be sure to complete the entire course—even if you feel well.