Sore Throat

Sore throats and their hallmark signs—including dry scratchiness, redness, swelling and painful swallowing—that go with them are typically a symptom of a common underlying illness such as colds or the flu.

Most sore throats last only a few days, and can be relieved by over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen. (Do not give children under the age of 19 aspirin; doing so can cause Reye’s Syndrome, a potentially fatal illness.)

Gargling several times a day with warm salt water may also give some relief. Some sore throat causes, such as strep, tonsillitis and abscesses, are tied to a bacterial infection. These infections must be treated with antibiotics.

When to seek medical attention for a sore throat:

  • If the pain is severe or lasts more than a few days.
  • If the sore throat is accompanied by swollen glands that cause difficulty breathing or prevent the person from swallowing fluids.
  • In children in particular, if there is presence of excessive salivation, inability to swallow liquids, difficulty speaking, irritability or the inability to move the neck. In these instances, seek immediate medical attention.

Anyone who thinks they're having a medical emergency should not hesitate to seek care. Federal law ensures that anyone who comes to the emergency department is treated and stabilized, and that their insurance provides coverage based on symptoms, not a final diagnosis. 

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