Sore Throat Medicine: What to Take (& Other Treatment Options)

Updated in January 2024

Sore throat medicine, like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or acetylsalicylic acid, may be prescribed by your doctor to help relieve throat pain, irritation or inflammation caused by the cold or flu. These medications can also reduce fever and help facilitate swallowing or speaking.

Sore throats caused by bacterial infection may also be treated with antibiotics, like amoxicillin or azithromycin. These can help eliminate the bacteria causing infection, as well as relieve pain, redness or pus in the throat.

In addition to the sore throat medicine prescribed by your doctor, you can also consider home remedies like gargling with warm salt water or pomegranate peel tea. 

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What to take

Sore throat medicine that your doctor may prescribe can include:

1. Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen is an analgesic that can be indicated for sore throats. It acts by inhibiting the production of substances in the brain that are related to for pain perception, such as prostaglandins or cyclooxygenases. This medicine also has an antipyretic action, which means it helps to reduce fevers.

This medicine can be found in pharmacies in the form of tablets, syrup or drops. Doses vary according to the person's age and weight. 

Acetaminophen should not be taken by anyone with liver or kidney disease, anyone with impaired bone marrow function or by anyone who is allergic to any of its components. Very high doses can lead to liver damage and cause drug-induced hepatitis, which can be life-threatening.

2. Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory and antipyretic that is indicated for the relief of sore throat and fever. It slows down the formation of substances that cause inflammation in the throat, as well as reduce the substances that increase body temperature. it can be taken by adults and children over 6 months.

This medicine can be found in the form of drops, tablets, gelatin capsules or oral suspension, and should be taken as prescribed. Learn more about how to take ibuprofen and what it can be used for.

Ibuprofen should not be used in cases of stomach ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding or liver, kidney or heart failure. It should also not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women, or children under 6 months of age. The use of ibuprofen in children under 2 years of age should be monitored by a pediatrician.

3. Nimesulide

Nimesulide is an anti-inflammatory that can also be indicated for sore throat and fever. It can be taken by adults or children over 12 years of age, as prescribed by the doctor.

This medicine can be found in tablet, capsule, drop solution, dissolvable tablet or granule form. It should be taken orally after a meal, in the doses indicated by the doctor. Learn more about the dosing of nimesulide and how to take it.

Nimesulide should not be taken by children under 12 years of age or by pregnant or breastfeeding women. It is contraindication for those with a history of ulcers or bleeding in the stomach or intestine, blood clotting problems, severe heart, kidney or liver failure, asthma, rhinitis or nasal polyps.

4. Acetylsalicylic acid

Acetylsalicylic acid is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is indicated to treat inflammation. It can relieve mild to moderate sore throat, and lower fever in adults and children.

This medicine is found in tablet form and should not be used by people with a history of easy bleeding, stomach or intestinal ulcers, asthma, severe kidney, liver or heart failure, or anyone using oral anticoagulants.

Furthermore, acetylsalicylic acid should not be used during pregnancy unless recommended by your doctor. For children under 12 years of age, the use of children's acetylsalicylic acid should be monitored by a pediatrician.

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5. Amoxicillin

Amoxicillin is an antibiotic prescribed for sore throats caused by bacterial infections. Dosing and treatment time vary dependong on the person's health status, age and body weight. Learn more about how to take amoxicillin and what it can be taken for.

This medication should not be taken by people who are allergic to amoxicillin, penicillins or cephalosporins. In addition, pregnant or breastfeeding women, people with kidney problems or anyone taking medications should speak to their doctor before starting treatment with amoxicillin.

The doctor may also consider other antibiotics to treat sore throats , such as azithromycin, erythromycin, clindamycin or cephalexin. Learn more about antibiotics for sore throat. Learn more about the antibiotics for a sore throat that your doctor may consider.

Home remedies

Some home remedies can be used to complement the treatment prescribed by your doctor and help to alleviate symptoms of throat inflammation, such as pain and discomfort.

Also recommended: Get Rid of a Sore Throat Fast: Home Remedies & Medicationtuasaude.com/en/how-to-get-rid-of-a-sore-throat

Some home remedies for a sore throat include:

  • Gargle with warm water with lemon and a pinch of salt for 2 minutes, twice a day.
  • Gargle with pomegranate peel tea
  • Drink cherry or orange juice daily, as these are fruits rich in vitamin C
  • Apply a honey spray and propolis to the throat 3 to 4 times a day
  • Take 1 spoon of honey with 5 drops of propolis extract per day.

These remedies do not replace the medical treatment prescribed by your doctor, and can instead be used as a complement.

Treatment during pregnancy

Medications are generally not recommended when pregnant or breastfeeding because they can cause complications during pregnancy and pass to the baby through breast milk. In these cases, you should consult your doctor before taking medication for a sore throat. The safest medicine to take during pregnancy to relieve pain is acetaminophen, however, it should only be taken if approved by your doctor.

Pregnant women can opt for home remedies, which are safer, such as lemon and ginger tea. To make this tea, place a 4 cm peel of lemon and 1 cm of ginger in a cup of boiling water and wait for about 3 minutes. Then add 1 teaspoon of honey, let it cool and drink up to 3 cups of this tea per day. Alternatively, you can also gargle with water, lemon and salt.

Learn more about how to prepare a salt water gargle, as well as other gargles to relieve a sore throat.