• Children's Center

    Infectious Diseases A-Z: Does your child have a sore throat?

a sick child with a sore throat having it examined
Is your child complaining of a dry and itchy throat? He or she may have a sore throat caused by a viral infection.

Sore throats are very common, especially amongst school-aged children," says Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic pediatric infectious disease specialist. "Some of the symptoms that a child might complain of are pain when swallowing, difficulty swallowing, refusal to eat or drink anything because it’s painful. They may complain of pain on the outside of their neck where their lymph glands are located.”

Watch: Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse discusses sore throats.

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Most sore throats are caused by viruses and will get better on their own. Dr. Rajapakse adds ninety percent of sore throats are caused by viruses. "Those are the most common cause of sore throats." she says. "A small percentage of sore throats are caused by the group A strep or strep bacteria, and those are the ones that require treatment with antibiotics. All viral sore throats will get better on their own, and there’s no benefit to taking antibiotics. Taking antibiotics for them could cause you or your child harm."

For relief from symptoms, Dr. Rajapakse says, “We often recommend things like cool or warm drinks, popsicles, lozenges that the child can suck on – if they’re old enough to do that safely – that can help to numb the throat a bit. Using a humidifier to humidify the air can help, because dry air can be quite irritating. And, then, using medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can also help to settle some of that pain until they get better.”

See your health care provider if the symptoms persist.