A sore throat refers to a painful, itchy, and uncomfortable feeling in the throat that can make it difficult to swallow. A variety of medications, as well as home remedies, are available to help treat a sore throat.

A sore throat is a common symptom of conditions such as the common cold or flu. According to a 2021 study, a sore throat is the sixth most common reason people visit a primary care physician in Germany.

Possible causes of a sore throat can include:

  • bacterial or viral infections
  • irritation from cigarette smoke or ingesting chemicals
  • non-infectious conditions such as Kawasaki disease

Often, a sore throat may resolve in a few days. However, if the pain is severe or its persists for longer than 5–10 days, it is advisable to contact a doctor.

Different types of medications available for treating different causes of a sore throat. Typically, these medications either relieve the symptoms of a sore throat or fight the infection that is causing the discomfort.

In this article, we will discuss different medications that may help to soothe a sore throat.

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Pain relief comes in various forms. Often, over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief is effective as an initial treatment for sore throat. Two examples of OTC pain treatment are acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

Doctors may refer to some medications as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Other anti-inflammatory drugs, such as corticosteroids, contain steroids.

Both corticosteroids and NSAIDs can offer pain relief and reduce inflammation for a range of conditions, including a sore throat.

NSAIDs are often available OTC and can provide relief from symptoms of a sore throat. They are often available in many forms, such as tablets, or as an active ingredient in other products. Common NSAIDs include the following:

  • ibuprofen
  • naproxen
  • aspirin
  • diclofenac

While NSAIDs can help reduce symptoms of a sore throat, they can also cause side effects. These may include:

Additionally, it is not advisable to take NSAIDs while consuming alcohol. This can further irritate the stomach and cause side effects.

Furthermore, NSAIDs may also interact with other drugs, so a person may want to consult with their doctor before taking NSAIDs for a sore throat.

Corticosteroids are an additional form of treatment that may help relieve a sore throat by reducing pain and inflammation. Types of corticosteroids include betamethasone, dexamethasone, and prednisone.

Evidence notes that while corticosteroids can help relieve a sore throat, clinical guidelines indicate a weak recommendation for corticosteroids. Research suggests that corticosteroids are most effective for a sore throat when a person takes them over a short period at low to moderate doses.

Throat sprays describe a localized painkiller for the throat, which a person sprays directly onto their throat to offer instant relief, often by numbing the throat.

Research from 2016 suggests that throat sprays improve a sore throat significantly more than lozenges. However, researchers used different agents in this study. So people may want to consider the active ingredients and which product they are more comfortable using.

Lozenges provide a safe option to relieve pain in those with a sore throat. Lozenges can contain many different ingredients, meaning they may possess anesthetic and antimicrobial activity.

Lozenges are typically similar to hard candy, which a person dissolves with their saliva. By sucking on a lozenge, a person releases the active ingredients, helping to soothe and lubricate the throat.

If a person is experiencing a sore throat due to coughing, they may benefit from taking an antitussive, such as a cough syrup. This liquid can soothe the throat and suppress the urge to cough. Cough syrups may also contain other active ingredients that can help relieve a sore throat.

Infections can be a common cause of a sore throat. If a doctor identifies that the cause of the sore throat is a bacterial infection, they will prescribe antibiotics. For example, streptococcal pharyngitis or strep throat, is a common cause of a sore throat.

The best antibiotics to take for strep throat are typically either penicillin or amoxicillin. Most of the time, a person will notice that their symptoms resolve within 1–3 days of starting a course of antibiotics.

However, it is important that a person receives an accurate diagnosis from a doctor before taking antibiotics. These medications are extremely effective, but they can cause side effects and may cause bacteria to develop resistance if used inappropriately. This makes it harder to treat infections in the future.

As well as medicinal methods to relieve a sore throat, people may also benefit from some home remedies. For example, this may include:

  • gargling with salt water
  • using honey, which can be added to warm beverages, for example
  • adding lemon juice to beverages
  • gargling hot sauce and water
  • drinking herbal teas, such as peppermint, chamomile, or green tea

Click here to learn more about natural options for treating a sore throat.

A sore throat is a common symptom that can cause discomfort. Different medications are available, both OTC and prescription, to help soothe and relieve symptoms.

Typically, these medications ease pain and inflammation, making it easier for a person to swallow and speak. In other cases, such as a bacterial infection, a person will require antibiotics to directly treat the cause of the sore throat.

Along with medication, there are also home remedies available for managing a sore throat.