Sore Throat


Medically reviewed by Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Sore Throat Treatment

Because sore throats can be caused by both viral and bacterial infections, different medications are used to treat different types of sore throat. When prescription medication may be unnecessary, a variety of medicinal treatments can be used to help treat throat discomfort.

How to get rid of a sore throat

Sore throats can be treated in a number of ways, including both medication treatment and at-home remedies.

If your healthcare provider determines that you have a viral infection, he or she may prescribe antiviral medication (most often in the case of influenza) or suggest a combination of medications and treatments you can use to relieve the symptoms of your illness.

If it’s determined that you have a bacterial infection (most likely strep throat), your provider will prescribe an antibiotic to fight off the bacteria. The most commonly prescribed antibiotics for treating strep are penicillin and amoxicillin.

If your healthcare provider decides that you do not need to take any medications, you can use a number of at-home remedies to relieve the symptoms of a sore throat.

Viral pharyngitis treatment

A sore throat that’s caused by a virus usually doesn’t require medical treatment. It’s important to note that healthcare providers will not prescribe antibiotics for viral infections. Doing so can put the patient at risk of side effects, and increases the chance of developing antibiotic resistance. While these antiviral medications do not specifically target a sore throat, they may be prescribed to help treat a flu that is causing pharyngitis:

May be prescribed

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Sore throat remedies

There are many ways to help alleviate the discomfort associated with a sore throat that don’t require medication. Some ways to soothe a sore throat include:

  • Sipping warm liquids such as tea or broth
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Using a humidifier to add moisture to dry indoor air
  • Sucking on ice chips, popsicles, or lozenges: some contain benzocaine, an ingredient that helps relieve pain
  • Gargling with salt water: Dissolve ¼ to ½ teaspoon of sea salt in 8 ounces of warm water, and gargle for 30 seconds to a minute
  • Using honey in tea, or eating a small amount of honey to coat your throat

Sore throat prevention

Because sore throats are caused by a number of different types of infections, the illness can be spread from person to person.

Here are some helpful tips to avoid catching a sore throat (and prevent the spread of infection if you do catch it):

  • Wash your hands: Washing your hands frequently with warm, soapy water is one of the best ways to prevent many common illnesses. Generally, you should wash your hands after coughing or sneezing and before eating or preparing food. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

  • Practice respiratory etiquette: Cover your nose and mouth with your elbow (not your hand) when coughing or sneezing. Always use a tissue when possible.

  • Avoid crowded places: Densely crowded areas such as schools, workplaces, and public transportation can harbor viruses and bacteria.

  • Avoid close contact: do not hug, kiss, or shake hands with others when either of you are sick. Stay at home when you are sick, and keep children out of school, daycare, or other group activities if they have an illness.

  • Disinfect surfaces: Disinfect kitchen and bathroom surfaces and frequently used objects (such as toys and doorknobs), especially when you or your family members are sick. Don’t share drinking glasses, utensils, or food with people close to you when either of you are sick.

  • Take care of yourself: Eating well, sleeping sufficiently, and getting exercise may help keep you from catching an illness.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.