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HealthInfo Canterbury

Sore throat

Young man with sore throatSore throats are very common especially in children and teenagers.

Most sore throats are caused by viruses, and get better by themselves with no treatment other than pain relief.

However, some sore throats are caused by a bacteria (germ) called streptococcus (strep-toe-kok-us). This is called strep throat, which your doctor can treat with antibiotics. In a few cases strep throat leads to a more serious illness called rheumatic fever.

You are at more risk of rheumatic fever if:


If you or your child have a high risk for rheumatic fever, see a doctor or nurse to check any sore throat straight away – within one or two days. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics for your sore throat it's important to take them all, for the entire 10 days. This is to stop you from getting rheumatic fever.

If you have a sore throat with a runny nose, cough, hoarse voice and a headache, you may have a viral cold or flu infection.

You or your child may have fever and swollen neck glands.

Causes of sore throat

Most sore throats are caused by:

Diagnosing sore throat

Most sore throats don't need any tests.

You may have a swab taken from your throat to check for strep throat.

If your doctor thinks you might have glandular fever they will take a blood test.

Treating sore throat

Most sore throats get better after two or three days and go away completely in seven to 10 days without any treatment. If you have strep throat you will need to take antibiotics for 10 days. It's important to finish them all to stop you getting rheumatic fever.

Self-care with sore throat

See your doctor if you or your child:

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2020.


See also:

Eating and drinking when you're unwell

Fever (high temperature) in children

Hoarse voice

Rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease

Page reference: 52903

Review key: HISTT-17240