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Sore Throat, Ambulatory Care

A sore throat

is often caused by a cold or flu virus. A sore throat may also be caused by bacteria such as strep. Other causes include smoking, a runny nose, allergies, or acid reflux.

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing or swallowing because your throat is swollen or sore
  • Drooling because it hurts too much to swallow
  • A painful lump in your throat that does not go away after 5 days
  • A fever higher than 102˚F (39˚C) or lasts longer than 3 days
  • Confusion
  • Blood in your throat or ear

Treatment for a sore throat

will depend on the cause how severe it is. A sore throat cause by a virus will go away on its own without treatment. You will need antibiotics if your sore throat is caused by bacteria. Your sore throat should start to feel better within 3 to 5 days for both viral and bacterial infections.

Care for your sore throat:

  • Gargle with salt water. Mix ¼ teaspoon salt in a glass of warm water and gargle. This may help reduce swelling in your throat.
  • Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen: These medicines decrease pain and fever. They are available without a doctor's order. Ask your healthcare provider which medicine is best for you. Ask how much to take and how often to take it.
  • Drink more liquids. Cold or warm drinks may help soothe your sore throat. Drinking liquids can also help prevent dehydration.
  • Use a cool-steam humidifier to help moisten the air in your room and reduce your throat pain.
  • Use lozenges, ice, soft foods, or popsicles to soothe your throat.
  • Rest your throat as much as possible. Try not to use your voice. This may irritate your throat and worsen your symptoms.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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