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Sore Throat (cont.)

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Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems.Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems.
Sore Throat: Should I Take Antibiotics?

Check Your Symptoms

Home Treatment

Home treatment is usually all that is needed for a sore throat caused by a virus. These tips may help you feel better.

  • Gargle with warm salt water to help reduce swelling and relieve discomfort:
    • Gargle at least once each hour with 1 tsp (5 g) of salt dissolved in 8 fl oz (240 mL) of warm water.
    • If you have postnasal drip, gargle often to prevent more throat irritation.
  • Prevent dehydration. Fluids may help thin secretions and soothe an irritated throat. Hot fluids, such as tea or soup, may help decrease throat irritation.
  • Use a vaporizer or humidifier in your bedroom.
    • Warm or cool mist may help you feel more comfortable by soothing the swollen air passages. It may also relieve hoarseness. But don't let your room become uncomfortably cold or very damp.
    • Use a shallow pan of water to provide moisture in the air through evaporation if you don't have a humidifier. Place the pan in a safe location where no one will trip on it or fall into it.
  • Do not smoke or use other tobacco products and avoid secondhand smoke. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
  • If you suspect that problems with stomach acid may be causing your sore throat, see the topic Heartburn.

Consider taking nonprescription medicine for your symptoms.

  • Use nonprescription throat lozenges.
    • Some nonprescription throat lozenges, such as Sucrets Maximum Strength or Spec-T, are safe and effective and have medicine (local anesthetic) that numbs the throat to soothe pain.
    • Regular cough drops may also help.
  • Use a decongestant.
    • Decongestants make breathing easier by shrinking swollen mucous membranes in the nose, allowing air to pass through. They also help relieve a runny nose and postnasal drip, which can cause a sore throat.
    • Decongestants can be taken orally or used as decongestant nasal sprays. Oral decongestants (pills) are probably more effective and provide longer relief but may cause more side effects.
    • These medicines may not be safe for young children or for people who have certain health problems. Before you use them, check the label. If you do use these medicines, always follow the directions about how much to use based on age and in some cases weight. For more information about medicine safety, see Over-the-Counter Medicine Precautions and Quick Tips: Giving Over-the-Counter Medicines to Children.
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

More home treatment can be found in topics related to sore throat.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Difficulty breathing develops.
  • Severe pain develops.
  • Inability to drink enough fluids develops.
  • A new rash or fever develops.
  • Symptoms lasting longer than 2 weeks.
  • Symptoms become more severe or more frequent.
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