A sore throat – simple or serious?

You’ve probably used it as the reason for being absent from school or university on Monday morning, haven’t you?

A sore throat is a common irritation that can take a while to go away, but while it’s common, it can also be an indication that it may be something more serious.

So, how will I know?

A sore throat, more often than not, is an indication that you have caught the common cold, a viral infection that should go away within a couple of days – if not, you could have a more serious viral or bacterial infection.

What can I use?

For the common cold & viral infections, you can use over-the-counter medication such as:

  • Lozenges (these are especially good for kids because there are flavour options, making them think it’s a sweet.)
  • If your nose is blocked, a decongestant (most likely a nasal spray) will be recommended.
  • You can also ask for pain killers such as ibuprofen. If your child has a cold, DON’T give them Aspirin! Believe it or not, it can cause brain damage in kids!

What are the serious causes?


Amongst other things, a sore throat can be an indication that you have contacted:

  • Mononucleosis
  • Flu
  • Laryngitis
  • Mumps

It is important to remember that when you have a viral infection like these above, you must not use antibiotics. Antibiotics only work on bacterial infection.


Bacterial infections do not normally cause a runny nose or congestion and so if you have a sore throat without these symptoms, you most likely have a bacterial infection. You may also have a very high fever, but the doctor will have to do a test to see which bacteria you have. The different types of bacterial infections include:

  • Strep Throat
  • Tonsillitis
  • Epiglottitis
  • Uvulitis
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If left untreated, these infections can cause serious complications. Go and see your doctor if you think you may show any symptoms linked to a bacterial infection.

The two most common symptoms are: fever and loss of appetite.

It’s been a month and I’m not getting better!

Have you been taking your medication and/or sticking to the recommended treatment? If you have, your sore throat could be caused by the following:

  • Allergies
  • Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

In this case, it’s best to make an appointment with your doctor will recommend the necessary treatment. This will vary depending on the diagnosis.

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Sources: WebMD, Mayoclinic