Sore Throat

Learn about symptoms and causes of sore throat, self-help treatment options, medication and when to seek medical help.

What is sore throat?

A sore throat is a condition where the throat feels dry or irritated. One may feel pain in the throat which can worsen during swallowing or talking.

Most sore throats are caused by viruses, and the symptoms usually resolve on their own within a few days.

What are the possible causes of this condition?

The causes of sore throat can broadly be divided into two categories- an infection, or a non-infectious cause.

Sore throat is mostly caused by a viral infection, like the common cold, flu, or COVID-19. A bacterial infection is a less common cause. Children are more likely to have ‘Strep throat’ which is the most common bacterial infection associated with a sore throat.

Examples of non-infectious causes include:

  • Allergies (e.g. pet fur, dust mites, dust, or mould)
  • Smoking (including second-hand smoke)
  • Medical conditions like acid reflux, throat cancer
  • Overuse/strain of throat muscles from talking loudly or continuously for a long time
  • Irritation due to eating spicy food, drinking very hot liquids, or excessive alcohol intake 
  • Breathing dry indoor air or through the mouth 
  • Medications which may suppress the immune system 

What are the symptoms of sore throat?

Throat pain due to inflammation (swelling).

There may be other symptoms which include:

  • Cough
  • Blocked nose
  • Running nose
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Hoarseness or loss of voice


What can I do to treat sore throat?

Sore throat can be treated in the following ways and you can approach your pharmacist to get the following medications. 

  • Pain or fever relievers (e.g. Paracetamol or Ibuprofen tablets or liquids)
  • Lozenges with local anaesthetics or antiseptics (e.g. Benzydamine, Dequalinium, Chlorhexidine + Lidocaine)
  • Throat sprays with local anaesthetics or antiseptics (e.g. Benzydamine, Povidone-iodine)
  • Antiseptic gargles or mouthwash (e.g. Chlorhexidine, Povidone-iodine, Glycerin Thymol)

If your sore throat is due to an allergy cause , you can approach your pharmacist for some antihistamines

  • Loratadine or Cetirizine tablets or liquids

If your sore throat is a result of an acid reflux, you can approach your pharmacist to get the following medications:

  • Famotidine tablets
  • Omeprazole capsules
  • Domperidone tablets
  • Antacids (as tablets or liquids)

When do I need to see a doctor?

Although sore throat can be treated without a doctor’s consultation, there are times when the condition might be more serious. 

If your condition does not get better in 1 week or worsens, you should see a doctor. You should also see a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Earache
  • Fever above 38 o
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Difficulty in swallowing or drooling
  • Lump in neck or neck swelling
  • Blood in saliva or phlegm
  • Joint pain or swelling
  • Rash
  • Severe throat or neck pain
  • Signs of dehydration

You should also seek immediate medical attention if you are on medications that may suppress your immune system.


What else can I do to manage this condition?

Other than using medications to treat the condition, sore throat can also be managed by the following methods:

  • Get sufficient rest
  • Drink more fluids (if not fluid restricted)
  • Suck on ice
  • Avoid irritants like second-hand smoke, spicy food, very hot liquids, or excessive amounts of alcohol 
  • Use a humidifier or vaporiser
  • Rest your voice


The following are some suggestions to prevent a sore throat from happening again:

  • Practice good hygiene to avoid the spread of infection by:
    • Washing hands frequently or using hand sanitizers
    • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick



This article is jointly developed by members of the National Medication Information workgroup. The workgroup consists of cluster partners (National Healthcare Group, National University Health System and SingHealth), community pharmacies (Guardian, Unity and Watsons) and Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore. The content does not reflect drug availability and supply information in pharmacies and healthcare institutions. You are advised to check with the respective institutions for such information.

The content above is solely for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or supplement, or adopting any treatment for a health problem.

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