How Can I Treat a Sore Throat at Home?

Published: March 09, 2023
By Taylor Lindsay, PharmD, BCPS

Sore throats are often caused by viruses, allergies, bacteria, or exposure to irritants, such as cigarette smoke. A sore throat rarely needs antibiotics. Only a small percentage of sore throats are caused by bacteria, an infection that requires antibiotics. Sore throats often go away on their own.

How can I relieve a sore throat?
There are many over-the-counter (OTC) products available at your local pharmacy that can help relieve the symptoms of a sore throat. Your pharmacist can help you choose the best product for you. OTC products include:

  • Cough drops
  • Sore throat spray with phenol
  • Antihistamines if your sore throat is caused by allergies
  • Pain relievers like acetaminophen, naproxen, or ibuprofen

Are there home remedies that can relieve sore throat pain?
There are also home remedies for relieving a sore throat that use items you may already have at home in your kitchen cupboard.

  • Gargling with salt water
  • Sucking on popsicles or ice chips
  • Eating honey or drinking a spoonful of honey dissolved in warm water
  • Drinking lots of fluids to help keep your throat moist

How do I know if I should see a doctor for my sore throat or if I need an antibiotic?
Consider seeing a doctor for your sore throat if:

  • If you have a sore throat and a fever
  • If you are having a hard time breathing
  • If you have a severe sore throat
  • If you have a sore throat that is not improving or is worsening over a week

These symptoms might be a sign of an infection that needs antibiotics.

Pharmacist’s Tips:

  • Avoid giving lozenges to young children, who may choke
  • Avoid giving honey to babies younger than 12 months
  • Products containing menthol can safely be used every 2 hours to relieve sore throat pain
  • Before taking any medications, whether they are OTC or prescription, be sure to read the drug facts label to make sure you are taking the right dose


A sore throat may be caused by many different things. Unless a sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, taking antibiotics will not help. Get plenty of rest to help your body fight the infection and use these tips to help soothe your sore throat. Talk to your pharmacist or another healthcare provider if you have any questions about your medications. If you are worried about your sore throat or have a sore throat that won’t go away, consider seeing your doctor.

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