Sore Throat

A guide for parents and caregivers on sore throat

What is a sore throat?

A sore throat is pain, scratchiness or irritation of the throat that often worsens when you swallow. A sore throat can be caused by many things, not just strep throat. Usually, the common cold or seasonal allergies are the culprit. Other viruses like hand-foot-mouth disease and mono can also cause sore throat.

What you need to know

A sore throat can be extremely painful, so much so that it causes difficulty in eating and drinking. A sore throat associated with a runny nose and cough is very likely not strep throat or an infection that needs treatment and can be managed at home with pain control and plenty of liquids. 

If the sore throat is worse in the morning, it could be postnasal drip from allergies.

White spots on the tonsils are not a reliable indicator of bacterial infection.

How you can help

There are many things you can try at home to soothe your child’s throat so that it’s less painful.

  • Ibuprofen (for children over the age of 6 months) or acetaminophen can ease throat pain and discomfort

  • Cold liquids or popsicles

  • Warm herbal tea with honey (for children over the age of 1 year old)

  • Warm liquids such as soup or broth

You should also avoid giving your child acidic or spicy foods or drinks, such as orange juice.

When to contact your doctor

In some instances, a sore throat will require medical attention. If your child meets any of the criteria below, they need to be seen by a doctor the same day.

  • Your child cannot turn their neck or open their mouth

  • Your child is getting dehydrated from being unable to drink

  • Fever, rash, and sore throat

  • Excessive drooling (in babies & toddlers)

If any of the following happen, seek immediate medical care at the Emergency Room:

  • Sore throat with very noisy breathing

  • Sore throat with very labored or difficult breathing

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