Sore throat frequently asked questions

What’s causing my sore throat?

Sore throats are commonly associated with the common cold. They are usually caused by bacteria. Sore throats can also be caused by overstraining your voice, excessively dry air, allergies or environmental pollutants. Stomach acid reflux and irritation from tobacco smoke can also cause a sore throat.

Can I prevent a sore throat?

Sore throats can be contagious, depending on their cause. Therefore to reduce the risk of catching them, practice good hygiene by washing your hands thoroughly and frequently particularly before eating, after using the toilet and if you have just sneezed or coughed. Use a tissue and discard immediately, and if possible sneeze or cough into your elbow rather than your hand, to avoid spreading germs. Don’t share food or drinking utensils and regularly clean telephones, TV remotes and keyboards. Try to avoid people who are sick. Look after your lifestyle – avoid alcohol and smoking, eat well and ensure you give yourself time to rest and recover.

What can help make my sore throat feel better?

Both gargles and lozenges can be easily used at home or on the go and may provide soothing relief from a sore throat. You can make a suitable gargle at home with warm water and salt, or you may prefer a specialised gargle such as Betadine Sore Throat Gargle. This includes povidone-iodine to target the bacteria causing the sore throat. Medicated lozenges such as Betadine Sore Throat Lozenges may be the preferred option. These contain two anti-bacterial agents to help relieve the discomfort of a sore throat.

Is there anything I should avoid doing when I have a sore throat?

You should avoid smoking and second hand smoke if you have a sore throat as it can make it feel worse.1 Straining the voice from too much talking should also be avoided.

When should I see a doctor?

If you have a sore throat that lasts longer than a week or keeps coming back, a high fever, white spots or pus at the back of your throat, or earache, it is important to discuss with your healthcare practitioner. If you have difficulty breathing or talking it is a medical emergency.1

How many sore throats should I get a year?

Anyone can get a sore throat associated with a cold at any time. Children may get about 5–10 colds per year, whereas adults might get 2–4 colds per year. Children get more sore throats and colds than adults because they do not yet have a fully developed immune system to fight off the common cold.

Could my sore throat be allergies?

A sore throat can be caused by substances that irritate the throat such as in the case of allergies or hayfever. Other symptoms that may occur due to an allergy are watery, itchy eyes, runny nose, and/or sneezing.

How long will my sore throat last?

Sore throats are not usually serious and often last only a few days. However see your GP if you have symptoms that are not improving.

What is the best home treatment for sore throat?

The best home remedies for a sore throat are similar to when you have a cold. Make sure you allow yourself plenty of rest so your body can heal. Stay hydrated with plenty of water, fresh juice and soup. Sipping hot drinks, especially with lemon and honey, may also help soothe the throat and ease congestion.3 Gargles and lozenges are popular home remedies to help kill bacteria and soothe a sore throat.

How does a doctor treat a sore throat?

A doctor may advise rest and fluids as well as lozenges and pain relief. Antibiotics are not often needed but may be prescribed for a more serious bacterial infection.1 If you are concerned, seek medical advice.

References
  1. My Dr website as accessed 12/05/15http://www.mydr.com.au/pharmacy-care/sore-throat-self-care/
  2. Journal American Medical Association as accessed 15/05/15 http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=198488
  3. Mayo Clinic as accessed 14/05/15 http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sore-throat/basics/prevention/con-20027360
  4. From National Prescribing Service website as accessed 12/5/15 http://www.nps.org.au/conditions/respiratory-problems/respiratory-tract-infections/for-individuals/conditions/common-cold
  5. From NHS website as accessed 12/5/15 http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Sore-throat/Pages/Treatment.aspx
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