Te mamae korokoro Sore throat

Sore throats are very common, especially in tamariki (children) and rangatahi (teenagers). Most sore throats are caused by viruses and get better by themselves with no treatment other than pain relief.

Causes of sore throat

Most sore throats are caused by viruses that cause:

  • cold or flu viruses
  • COVID-19
  • glandular fever (Epstein-Barr virus) in rangatahi.

But some sore throats are caused by a bacteria called streptococcus. This is called strep throat, and your healthcare provider can treat it with antibiotics. In a few cases, strep throat leads to a more serious illness called rheumatic fever.

Rheumatic fever (internal link)

Māori and Pacific tamariki are much more likely to get rheumatic fever. All Māori and Pacific tamariki and young people age 4 to 9 should get their sore throat checked within 1 to 2 days.

Symptoms of sore throat

With a viral infection as well as a sore throat you may have a runny nose, cough, hoarse voice and headache .

See your healthcare provider if you or your tamaiti:

  • have difficulty breathing
  • cannot swallow saliva, which may cause dribbling
  • cannot get enough fluids
  • have severe pain
  • have an ongoing high fever
  • are not improving after 2 days
  • have earache or joint pain.

Diagnosing sore throat

Most sore throats do not need any tests.

You may have a swab taken from your throat to check for strep throat.

If your healthcare provider thinks you might have glandular fever, they will take a blood test.

Treating sore throat

Most sore throats get better after 2 or 3 days and go away completely in 7 to 10 days without any treatment.

If you have strep throat, you will need to take antibiotics for 10 days. It is important to finish them all to stop you getting rheumatic fever.

Rheumatic fever (internal link)

Self care with sore throat

You can do these things at home to relieve sore throat. 

  • Take pain relief such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Suck on ice cubes or lozenges.
  • Older tamariki and adults can gargle warm salt water. But make sure you spit it out and do not swallow the salt water.
  • Avoid smoking or smoky places.
  • Get rest.

Clinical review

This content was written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. It has been adapted for Health Information and Services.

Clinical advisers — HealthInfo (external link)