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Sore throats: the low down

Sore throats: the low down

We all suffer from a sore throat every now and again.

As we head into the cooler months, we look at the different causes of sore throats, how to treat them, and how to prevent getting and spreading infection.

Once you’ve read our article, you’ll be prepared if you get struck down with a sore throat this autumn.

What causes a sore throat?

Usually, sore throats are caused by a virus. This could be a common cold, the flu or COVID-19, for example.

A bacterial infection can also cause sore throats. A common example is strep throat, caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes. A strep sore throat is very infectious and is common in children of school age.

With a strep sore throat, the patient may feel unwell with other symptoms such as fever, headache, and muscle aches and pains.

You may also get a sore throat because of tonsillitis, which is inflammation of the tonsils; an allergy; a mouth ulcer; or even simply breathing through your mouth instead of your nose when you are asleep.

What helps sore throats?

Most sore throats go away of their own accord after a few days.

If your sore throat is mild and caused by a virus you won’t be able to cure it, only treat the symptoms.

You can get relief by;

  • Taking over-the-counter pain relief medication such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, or gargles, sprays or lozenges designed for sore throats
  • Gargling with warm, salty water a few times a day
  • Drinking a mixture of hot water, honey and lemon
  • Sticking to soft foods that won’t scratch your throat, like yoghurt, ice cream and soup
  • Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other clear fluids
  • Avoiding smoking or being around second-hand smoke

If you have a sore throat caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor may give you a course of antibiotics. It’s important to take the full course, even if you start feeling better.

If you have a fever (a temperature of 38°C or higher) as well as your sore throat, keep a close eye on your temperature with a reliable thermometer and general state of health.

Consult a doctor if you experience any of these additional symptoms:

  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • A stiff or painful neck
  • A high fever
  • A rash
  • Feeling very unwell

You should also seek medical help if the sore throat gets worse or doesn’t resolve by itself or with self-care at home.

How can I prevent getting a sore throat?

One of the best ways of preventing all types of infection, including sore throats, is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you can’t access water, hand sanitiser is a great way to kill germs and keep your hands clean.

If you’re heading out to crowded places, face masks are a good idea. If you opt for disposable face masks, make sure you change them frequently.

Avoid close contact with people who may have a sore throat or infection if you can.

You can also work on your general health and wellbeing, to ensure that your immunity stays strong. Exercise regularly and make sure you include plenty of fruit and vegetables in your diet. Foods that are naturally high in vitamin C, which will help boost your immunity, include:

  • Citrus fruits like kiwi fruit, oranges and grapefruit
  • Capsicums (bell peppers)
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • White potatoes
  • Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage

And if you do come down with a sore throat, you can help keep it to yourself by:

  • Staying at home if possible and avoiding close contact with others
  • Sneezing or coughing into a tissue or the inside of your elbow. If you use a tissue, make sure you dispose of it straight away and wash your hands
  • Using your own set of kitchen utensils like cutlery and plates while you are infectious, instead of sharing with other household members
  • Avoiding preparing food for others while you are unwell or might still be infectious

Keep sore throats at bay

While sore throats are no fun, most of the time they are easy to treat at home and will go away after a few days.

But don’t hesitate to consult a doctor if you’re worried about your sore throat or other symptoms.

To prepare for sore throat season, take a browse of the FeverMates online collection. We stock a whole range of items designed with your health and wellbeing in mind, including thermometers, hand sanitiser and face masks.

Our mission is to keep Australia well this winter — and those sore throats at bay!

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