Sore throat treatments

Sore throats often clear up in a few days, even without treatment. The infection that causes a sore throat is usually viral, and an antibiotic is of no benefit for viral infections. However, sucking ice could help soothe the throat, and products from your pharmacist could help reduce the inflammation and help ease the pain.

Pharmacists have a variety of products that can help ease the pain of a sore throat. However, take care with sweet syrups and lozenges, particularly in children, as the sugar content may cause tooth decay.

Local antivirals/antibacterials

Local antivirals/antibacterials, such as some brands of sore throat gargle, can kill the virus that causes the majority of sore throats, but they do not mask symptoms. They should not be used in pregnancy or breast feeding.

Analgesic tablets or liquids

Paracetamol is useful for the pain and can keep the temperature down as well. Aspirin may be very useful for pain and fever, but it can cause stomach upsets. Also, some asthmatics are sensitive to aspirin. Aspirin should not be used in children under 12 years old except under medical advice. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, are useful for treating pain and fever, but should be used with caution in people with stomach problems, indigestion and asthma because they may worsen these conditions.

Local anti-inflammatories/analgesics

Local anti-inflammatories/analgesics include over-the-counter products such as benzydamine, which can be found in some sore throat solutions, sprays or lozenges.

Local anaesthetics

You should be careful not to eat or drink hot food if taking local anaesthetic lozenges, because the anaesthetic blunts the pain, and this may result in a burnt mouth.

Local antiseptics

Local antiseptics can be found in several sore throat products, including some lozenges and solutions. It is important that you do not exceed the maximum dose. These products may irritate your tongue and lips.


Propolis is a natural bee product. It should not be given to people who are allergic to bee stings or who are asthmatic. It may be helpful for mouth ulcers and a range of throat infections, but definitive evidence from clinical trials of its effectiveness is lacking.


The following supplements may also assist:

  • garlic extract (high strength);
  • vitamin C plus bioflavonoids;
  • echinacea; and
  • zinc.

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