Can a sore throat go away on its own?


Whether your sore throat goes away on its own all depends on what’s causing it. Most sore throats are caused by either a viral or bacterial infection; other causes of sore throat include tonsillitis and allergies.

Viral infections usually heal on their own. Bacterial infections may need antibiotics, while some less common causes of sore throat may need condition-specific treatment.

Sore throats caused by viral infections

Sore throats commonly caused by viruses – such as the flu and the common cold – usually resolve on their own within 3 to 10 days. If a sore throat is a symptom of other viral conditions, such as croup, measles, or chicken pox, they can go away with minimal treatment (home remedies, pain medication, or prescribed corticosteroids) in 10 days or less, when the infection resolves. Antibiotics don’t work for viral infections.

Sore throats caused by bacterial infections

Bacterial infections cause sore throats less often than viruses, but take longer to resolve completely. Doctors often prescribe antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, which may reduce the inflammation and pain and shorten the duration of the sore throat. Without an antibiotic, bacterial infections and the sore throats they cause may last anywhere from a week to 10 days.

Sore throats become more serious when caused by a bacteria called Fusobacterium. This can result in a complication called Lemierre’s syndrome.

Strep throat

Strep throat is a common bacterial infection caused by the bacteria Streptococcus (group A streptococcus). Strep throat is usually treated with antibiotics. Once on antibiotics, your symptoms should disappear within a week.

Strep throat can go away on its own within 5 days. However, if you do not take antibiotics, you may remain contagious for as long as two weeks, and it puts you at a higher risk of complications such as sinusitis, middle ear infection, skin infections, and rheumatic fever.

Tonsillitis

Sore throat is a symptom of tonsillitis (caused by a virus or bacteria), an infection common amongst school-going children. It is also accompanied by other symptoms such as swollen tonsils, pain when swallowing, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, fever, bad breath, headache, and stiff neck. If the tonsillitis is mild, and caused by a virus (for instance, when you have a cold), it can go away on its own. More severe cases will need antibiotics or a tonsillectomy.

When to see a doctor

Talk to your doctor when you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • your sore throat lasts for longer than 10 days
  • excessive pain in the throat
  • fever
  • chills
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • rash
  • body aches
  • headache
  • nausea or vomiting

Managing a sore throat at home

As you or your child recovers from a sore throat:

  • Gargle with warm water and salt to loosen mucus and reduce swelling.
  • Use an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic spray to soothe the throat.
  • Drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration. Warm tea with honey and lemon mixed in is also soothing. Avoid orange juice, grapefruit juice, lemonade, or other acidic drinks, which can irritate a sore throat.
  • If swallowing is painful, try eating soft foods.
  • Take ibuprofen or other pain medication.
  • Try to stay away from other people if you think you or your child have Strep throat and tonsillitis as both are contagious.

References

  1. Allarakha, S. (n.d.). Can Strep Throat Go Away on Its Own?. MedicineNet. Accessed on 26 January 2024.
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Sore Throat. Mayo Clinic. Accessed on 26 January 2024.
  3. Nemours Kids Health. (2023). Strep Throat. Nemours Kids Health. Accessed on 26 January 2023.
  4. Pietrangelo, A. (2023). Everything You Need to Know About Tonsillitis. Healthline. Accessed on 29 January 2023.
  5. Whelan, C. (2018). How Many Days Does It Take to Recover from a Sore Throat?. Healthline. Accessed on 26 January 2024.

Disclaimer

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