Skip to main content

Sore Throat in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Nov 5, 2023.

What do I need to know about a sore throat?

A sore throat is often caused by a viral infection. Other causes include the following:

  • A bacterial or fungal infection
  • Allergies to pet fur, pollen, or mold
  • Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Dry or polluted air
  • Acid reflux disease

How is the cause of a sore throat diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will examine your child. Tell him if your child has any other symptoms. Your child may need a blood test to check for infection. Your child's healthcare provider may swab the back of your child's throat to test for bacteria. You may get the results in minutes or the swab may be sent to a lab.

How is a sore throat treated?

Treatment may depend on the condition that caused your child's sore throat. Your child may need medicine to decrease pain or swelling. Do the following to help manage your child's sore throat:

  • Give your child plenty of liquids. Liquids will help soothe your child's throat. Ask your child's healthcare provider how much liquid to give your child each day. Give your child warm or frozen liquids. Warm liquids include hot chocolate, sweetened tea, or soups. Frozen liquids include ice pops. Do not give your child acidic drinks such as orange juice, grapefruit juice, or lemonade. Acidic drinks can make your child's throat pain worse.
  • Have your child gargle with salt water. If your child can gargle, give him or her ¼ of a teaspoon of salt mixed with 1 cup of warm water. Tell your child to gargle for 10 to 15 seconds. Your child can repeat this up to 4 times each day.
  • Give your child throat lozenges or hard candy to suck on. Lozenges and hard candy can help decrease throat pain. Do not give lozenges or hard candy to children under 4 years.
  • Use a cool mist humidifier in your child's bedroom. A cool mist humidifier increases moisture in the air. This may decrease dryness and pain in your child's throat.
  • Do not smoke near your child. Do not let your older child smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. They can also make your child's sore throat worse. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you or your child currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you or your child use these products.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child has trouble breathing.
  • Your child is breathing with his or her mouth open and tongue out.
  • Your child is sitting up and leaning forward to help him or her breathe.
  • Your child's breathing sounds harsh and raspy.
  • Your child is drooling and cannot swallow.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You can see blisters, pus, or white spots in your child's mouth or on his or her throat.
  • Your child is restless.
  • Your child has a rash or blisters on his or her skin.
  • Your child's neck feels swollen.
  • Your child has a stiff neck and a headache.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child has a fever or chills.
  • Your child is weak or more tired than usual.
  • Your child has trouble swallowing.
  • Your child has bloody discharge from his or her nose or ear.
  • Your child's sore throat does not get better within 1 week or gets worse.
  • Your child has stomach pain, nausea, or is vomiting.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. 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.

© Copyright Merative 2023 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

Learn more about Sore Throat

Treatment options

Symptoms and treatments guides (external)

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.