Health Tips

Search by health tip group
Search by keyword

Health Tips / Sore Throats

Diagnosis and Symptoms

Sore throats are very common, with one in four people suffering each year. These are primarily young adults and children and the infection usually occurs during the winter months. Symptoms normally include a raw feeling at the back of the throat, which may appear red and inflamed. Other symptoms may include dryness, difficulty in swallowing, hoarseness or loss of voice.

Sometimes, a sore throat is associated with congestion, an ear infection, swollen glands or head cold or flu. In addition, irritants such as cigarette smoke and a very dry atmosphere worsen the pain associated with a sore throat. While most sore throats are of viral origin, it can be difficult to diagnose if the infection is viral or bacterial. The most common cause of a bacterial sore throat is the bacteria beta-haemolytic streptococcus, often referred to as a "strep" throat.

Usually in less severe cases, the complaint will resolve in about one week. However, if a sore throat does not respond to non-prescription treatments, or the tonsils seem very swollen, with spots or pus, or if there is a high temperature, your doctor should be consulted immediately. Your pharmacist will be able to advise you if you need to consult your doctor. Sometimes, your doctor may perform a throat swab to determine the cause of the infection and may need to prescribe antibiotics.

In children, sore throats may often be the first symptom of common childhood illnesses such as measles, mumps and chicken pox. If the sore throat is accompanied by other symptoms, your doctor should be consulted.

Preventative measures

In many cases it is difficult to prevent the spread of sore throats and we depend on the effectiveness of our immune system. To prevent the transfer of bacteria and viruses, make sure to wash your hands regularly and remember that viruses can live on door handles, the skin and towels for hours. It is advisable not to expose children, especially, to those with sore throats. Avoiding smoking and smokey atmospheres will also reduce the incidences of sore throats.

Non-prescription treatments

Non-prescription medicines used in the treatment of minor throat infections include gargles, oral rinses, throat sprays or lozenges. Severe throat infections will require a visit to your GP for diagnosis and treatment. Remember, irrespective of the source of the infection to drink plenty of warm drinks, which are soothing to the throat and will help keep the body hydrated.

Soluble aspirin (DISPRIN) has both anti-inflammatory and pain-killing properties and can be used to gargle.  Those allergic to aspirin, with a history of, or current stomach ulcer or other gastrointestinal disease, those taking anticoagulant medication or pregnant or who have asthma, or are under 16 years of age should not take DISPRIN.

One or two tablets of soluble paracetamol, available as SOLUBLE PANADOL can be dissolved in water and gargled up to four times daily and is very useful for asthmatic patients or those allergic to aspirin.  For children, the maximum daily dose depends on age.

Gargling with salt water may also be helpful, while in severe sore throats, 15ml of benzydamine hydrochloride (DIFFLAM ORAL RINSE) can be gargled  but usually for not more than 7 days. This oral rinse is not suitable for children aged 12 years or under and should be diluted with water if stinging occurs.

Throat Sprays and lozenges are much more convenient to use that gargles and oral rinses. STREPSILS PAIN RELIEF SPRAY contains a local anaesthetic lignocaine.  For very sore throats, DIFFLAM ORAL SPRAY, containing benzydamine hydrochloride can be used.  DIFFLAM ORAL SPRAY can also be used by those under 12 years dependent on age and weight. Your pharmacist will advise you accordingly.

Note: Local anaesthetics in sprays or lozenges will numb the throat and mouth reducing the ability to detect very hot liquids. Care should be taken to avoid burning with very hot drinks.

Throat lozenges usually contain anti-bacterial ingredient in conjunction with a soothing or local anaesthetic agents and are convenient to use. Lozenges containing a local anaesthetic agent are useful for painful throats, such as DEQUACAINE, MEROCAINE, STREPSILS DUAL ACTION.  TYROZETS also contain a local anaesthetic and can be used from the age of three years. 

For a dry sore throat, STREPSILS (which are available in an assortment of flavours) or MEROCETS have a soothing action on the lining of the throat.

Generally lozenges contain large amounts of sugar. For diabetics and for others where this could be a problem lozenges such as STREPSILS SUGAR FREE are recommended.  

Further information on the medicines listed above including dosages and contraindications are listed at

Related health tips:
Last update: 16/05/2013 12:38 • Previous update: 30/11/-0001 00:00