Lay off the hot drinks, suck ice lollies or gargle with salt water. And, above all, don’t assume you need antibiotics

Rest your body – and your voice

Sore throats are very common and usually get better by themselves within a week. Getting a good night’s sleep always helps to help fight off infection. The NHS advises those with a sore throat to stay well hydrated, although hot drinks should be avoided. Sucking on ice cubes, ice lollies or hard sweets can soothe the inflammation.

Ease the discomfort with over-the-counter options

If you feel uncomfortable, take paracetamol or ibuprofen. There are also medicated sore-throat lozenges and anaesthetic sprays available over the counter that claim to target pain in the throat with anti-inflammatories. The NHS cautions that “there’s little proof they help”, but a 2011 study of two different kinds of medicated lozenge found they brought relief and eased soreness and difficulty swallowing within minutes; effects lasted up to two hours post-dose.

Make your own gargle

Gargling with warm salt water may help to reduce inflammation. (It is not recommended for children.) Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of partly cooled boiled water, gargle with the solution, then spit it out. Repeat as necessary. “It’s inexpensive and everyone can do it at home – I recommend this to most patients,” says Abraham Khodadi, a prescribing pharmacist who vlogs weekly about health on YouTube as Abraham the Pharmacist.

Don’t assume you need antibiotics

Most sore throats are caused by a virus, so they cannot be treated by antibiotics – even though in many cases they are prescribed anyway. Last year, sore throats accounted for nearly a quarter of inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions in England.Such prescriptions contribute to the global threat of antibiotic resistance. US researchers reported in 2013 that, from 1997 to 2010, about 60% of patients with sore throats received antibiotics, even though only about 10% needed them. Viral sore throats are accompanied by other cold symptoms that may include a runny nose, cough, red or watery eyes, and sneezing. The symptoms of streptococcal pharyngitis, “strep throat”, a bacterial infection, are similar, but likely to be more severe, and possibly accompanied by a high temperature or feeling hot and shivery.

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