Cold Home > Severe Sore Throat

Although most sore throats are not a serious problem, there are times when it is important to seek medical attention. You should call your healthcare provider if you (or your child) have any of the following symptoms:
  • Temperature higher than 101ºF (38.3ºC)
  • Swelling in the neck or tongue
  • Difficulty breathing, swallowing, or opening the mouth
  • Severe sore throat
  • Stiff neck
  • Dehydration
  • Recurring sore throats
  • You have been exposed to someone with strep throat or a sexually transmitted disease.
Depending on the cause of your sore throat, there are ways to help reduce pain and discomfort. For example, even if you have a viral infection and can't take prescription medications, you can try taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. These can include acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Aleve®). Other remedies include oral rinses, decongestants, and throat lozenges.
(Click Sore Throat Symptoms and Sore Throat Remedies for more information on symptoms of a severe sore throat that may require medical care. These articles also describe some treatment options that may be available for various throat infections.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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