Page header image

Sore Throat: Brief Version

What is a sore throat?

Viruses that cause colds cause most sore throats. Strep bacteria causes some sore throats. Your doctor may take a throat culture to find out if the sore throat is caused by a virus or strep.

Your older child can tell you if he has a sore throat. A younger child may have a sore throat if he cries when he eats. Or your child may not eat. Your child's tonsils may also be red and swollen.

How can I take care of my child?

  • Help the throat feel better.

    If your child is over age 1, give warm chicken broth or apple juice.

    Children over age 6 can suck on hard candy or lollipops to make the throat feel better. Children over age 8 can also gargle with warm salt water (1/4 teaspoon of salt per glass).

  • Give a soft diet.

    If your child has a sore throat, some foods can be hard to swallow. Cold drinks and milkshakes are good. Do not give your child salty or spicy foods or citrus fruits.

  • Give pain medicine.

    Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) for the sore throat or for a fever. No aspirin.

Call your doctor right away if:

  • Your child drools or has a hard time swallowing.
  • It is hard for your child to breathe.
  • Your child acts very sick.

Call your child's doctor during office hours if:

  • Your child has a sore throat for more than 48 hours.
  • Your child has a fever and no other cold symptoms.
  • You think your child may need a Strep test.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2011-07-20
Last reviewed: 2018-07-13
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2018 Barton D. Schmitt, MD FAAP. All rights reserved.
Page footer image