Published on 09th April 2018

Edited on 09th April 2018


Sore throats are a very common condition and are usually caused by minor illnesses such as common cold or flu.

A sore throat can be uncomfortable, making it hard to sleep at night and painful when swallowing. The good news is that in most cases a sore throat will usually get better within a week and can be treated at home with a few self-help tips and Nurofen.

Read on to learn more about the causes and symptoms of sore throats, as well as some sore throat remedies.

What Causes a Sore Throat?

It’s not always easy to pin point the cause of a sore throat but in most cases it is the symptom of either a viral or bacterial infection. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common causes of sore throats.

Common cold or flu

Cold and flu are very common and usually caused by a virus. The common colds affect adults on average 2 - 3 times a year, and are more common in children who experience a cold on average 5 - 6 per year. Alongside a runny nose, cough, or headache a sore throat is a very common symptom of cold or flu.

Bacterial infection

If you think you may have a bacterial infection, you should think about booking an appointment with your GP.

External factors

In some instances external factors including your lifestyle choices (smoking), air pollution, low humidity and allergies could be the cause of your sore throat.

Symptoms of a sore throat

If you have a sore throat you could experience any, or all, of the following symptoms:

  • Swollen or inflamed glands in your neck or jaw
  • Difficulty swallowing food and liquids
  • A dry, scratchy sensation in your throat
  • Redness in the back of your mouth
  • Bad breath
  • A mild cough

Other symptoms of cold and flu to watch out for that often accompany a sore throat include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Feeling tired
  • Muscle aches

In more severe sore throat cases, such a tonsillitis, you might also have:

  • A high temperature
  • Visible white pustules on the back of your throat and tonsils
  • Feeling sick
  • Earache

Sore throat treatments

For sore throats caused by a cold or flu, there are effective remedies that can help relieve the pain and discomfort:

Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of cool or warm liquids to stay hydrated and make sure you avoid hot drinks which could irritate your throat.


With its active ingredient ibuprofen, Nurofen has anti-inflammatory properties for relief, from mild to moderate pain. For fast pain relief try Nurofen Express 256mg Tablets, the sodium formulation is absorbed into your bloodstream up to twice as fast as standard ibuprofen.


If you are not getting enough sleep, or you are dealing with a lot of stress and overexerting yourself, you may not be giving your throat a chance to heal.

Gargle salt water

It may taste unpleasant, but gargling with a homemade mouthwash of warm, salty water can help to soothe a sore throat.

Suck ice cubes or ice lollies

Adults and older children can try sucking on ice cubes or ice lollies. This can help to relieve a sore throat because it will help to stimulate saliva production which in turn lubricates the throat lining. Make sure you do not give young children anything small or hard to suck on as this could be a choking hazard.

GPs don’t usually prescribe antibiotics for sore throats, as they are unlikely to make you feel better any quicker.

How can a sore throat be prevented?

Take these precautions to help avoid a sore throat in the future:

Avoid smoking and being around smoke

Smoking can dry out your throat, this also applies to secondary smoke if you are around smokers. You should avoid smoking and being in smoky places.

Wash your hands often

This is especially important in the cold-and-flu season. Making sure you wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face can help to prevent the spread of cold and flu viruses which could cause a sore throat.

Change your toothbrush

If you find your sore throat is coming back regularly, it could be due to bacteria living on your toothbrush. You should change your toothbrush after having has a cold or the flu to help prevent re-infecting yourself.

Ensure you’re getting enough vitamins

A weakened immune system might not be able to effectively fight off cold and flu viruses, or bacterial infections such as tonsillitis. Your go-to vitamins should be C and E, as well as antioxidants such as zinc and selenium. Try foods such as oily fish, eggs, some breakfast cereals and vitamin supplements.

When should I see a doctor?

In most cases a sore throat will clear up within a week.

However it’s a good idea to contact your GP or NHS 111 if:

  • Your symptoms are severe
  • You regularly experience sore throats
  • You have had a persistent sore throat for a week that hasn’t started to improve
  • You have a weakened immune system

Do I need to seek emergency help for my sore throat?

It’s rare, but a sore throat can sometimes be a sign of a more serious problem. You seek emergency help immediately if:

  • You’re having difficulty breathing
  • You’re finding it hard to swallow
  • Your symptoms are severe and getting worse quickly
  • You start drooling
  • You’re making a high pitched noise when breathing

Essential Information

Nurofen Express 256mg Tablets. Contains ibuprofen. For pain relief. Always read the label.