health articles

Sore Throat

Getting a sore throat is very common. In fact, it’s one of the most common issues which Virtually GPs and nurses consult with our patients on.



Why do sore throats happen?

Sore throats happen when we get an inflammation or infection in our upper airways. This generally happens when we catch viruses (like the common cold) but can also be caused by smoking. One fairly common infection of this kind in children is tonsillitis, when our tonsils at the back of our throats get infected.

What are the symptoms of a sore throat?

Some symptoms which may indicate you have a sore throat include: a painful throat; pain when swallowing; redness in the back of your mouth; bad breath; swollen/tender neck glands; a mild cough.

How long do sore throats last?

Sore throats aren’t very pleasant, but most of the time they aren’t serious. They normally will get better by themselves within a week.

If you have had a sore throat for more than a week, then it is worth booking a consultation with a Virtually GP. (If you’re worried about your sore throat, then we would advise doing this anyway.)



 Is my sore throat serious?

It’s worth being careful, because some symptoms of sore throats (like a cough) are shared with other, much more contagious illnesses – like COVID-19. If you’re worried your sore throat might be COVID-19, then we would advise booking a Virtual consultation with one of our clinicians and booking a COVID test. If you have a temperature and/or a cough, then you should also self-isolate until you have determined that you don’t have COVID-19.

It’s also worth knowing that infections like this can impact people with long-term conditions like asthma, heart failure, or diabetes differently. If you’ve got one of these and get a sore throat or cough, then we’d recommend booking a consultation with one of our nurses or GPs.

How should I treat my sore throat?

Generally, we don’t treat sore throats with medication like antibiotics. This is because these days, clinicians are careful not to over-prescribe antibiotics, and with most sore throats antibiotics won’t help anyway.

While sore throats normally get better by themselves, they can still be unpleasant. Our advice for most sore throats would be to have plenty of rest, stay hydrated, and to use paracetamol or ibuprofen for the pain. If your throat hurts, gargling with warm, salty water can also help speed along the healing process (though we wouldn’t advise this for children).

Some patients like to use lozenges to help with sore throats. You can collect these from any Pharmacy without a prescription.

How can Virtually GPs help when you have a sore throat?

If you are very anxious about your health, our view is that it’s always better to speak with a medical professional and have these concerns addressed. They will be able to help you understand your illness, give you some advice, and let you know what to expect. It’s worth remembering though that with most sore throats, prescribed medication is not the best way to treat them.

As our Virtually clinicians consult by telephone or video, you’ll be able to speak with them even if you’re self-isolating. Please take two photos of your throat and upload them into the consultation form.

When should I book to see a nurse, GP or pharmacist?

Sore throats as relates to long-term conditions

If you have a long-term condition like asthma, heart failure, or diabetes, then you should book to speak to a Virtually nurse. We’d also recommend doing this if you have any of the following symptoms as well as a sore throat: a fever of 38 degrees or more; there is pus visible on the tonsils at the back of your throat; if you have very tender swollen glands on your throat/neck.

Speaking to a Virtually GP about a sore throat

You should speak to a Virtually GP:

  • if your temperature is over 38.5 on two successive readings 6 hours apart,
  • if you cannot swallow saliva
  • if you notice a change in your voice
  • if your sore throat hasn’t cleared up by itself after more than a week,
  • if you’ve had a persistent cough for a couple of weeks,
  • or if you have a cough which rapidly gets worse.

These may be a sign that you’ve got an infection which is more serious than a common sore throat.

For most sore throats, seeing a pharmacist will be enough. A pharmacist will be able to advise you on your illness, and will sell over-the-counter medication like paracetamol, ibuprofen, and lozenges to help with the pain of a sore throat. Virtually has partnerships with a number of pharmacists, and you can also use our search tool to quickly find your nearest pharmacy.

Does this article answer all of your questions on this topic? If not, please let us know as we’re always keen to update these in order to make them as informative and helpful as possible.

Types of consultations we offer

We offer written, telephone and video consultations with a range of male and female clinicians from GPs, nurse practitioners, and primary care specialists such as physiotherapy.