A sore throat caused by a viral infection usually lasts five to seven days and doesn't require medical treatment. However, to ease pain and fever, many people turn to acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or other mild pain relievers. Use acetaminophen for the shortest time possible and follow label directions to avoid side effects.
Consider giving your child over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications designed for infants or children. These include acetaminophen (Tylenol, Infant's Feverall, others) or ibuprofen (Pediatric Advil, Motrin Infant, others) to ease symptoms.
Use caution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers. Children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. This is because aspirin has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition, in such children.
Treating bacterial infections
If your sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics.
You must take the full course of antibiotics as prescribed even if the symptoms are gone. Failure to take all of the medication as directed can result in the infection worsening or spreading to other parts of the body. Not completing the full course of antibiotics to treat strep throat can increase a child's risk of rheumatic fever or serious kidney inflammation.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what to do if you forget a dose.
If a sore throat is a symptom of a condition other than a viral or bacterial infection, other treatments will likely be considered depending on the diagnosis.
Although a number of alternative treatments are commonly used to soothe a sore throat, evidence is limited about what works. If you need an antibiotic for a bacterial infection, don't rely on alternative treatments alone.
Check with your doctor before using any herbal remedies, as they can interact with prescription medications and may not be safe for children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions.
Herbal or alternative products for a sore throat are often packaged as teas, sprays or lozenges. Common alternative remedies include:
- Slippery elm
- Licorice root
- Marshmallow root
- Honeysuckle flower and other Chinese medicine herbs