Pharyngitis / Sore Throat / Tonsillitis

Comments from Expert Advisory Committee

  • The majority of sore throats are viral; most patients do not benefit from antibiotics. Consider a delayed antibiotic strategy and explain soreness will take about 7 days to resolve.
  • Antibiotics make little difference to how long symptoms last or the number of people whose symptoms improve.
  • Withholding antibiotics is unlikely to lead to complications 
  • Offer all patients advice about self-care and to seek medical help if symptoms worsen significantly.
  • Reassess if symptoms worsen rapidly or significantly, taking account of: alternative diagnoses such as scarlet fever or glandular fever or any symptoms or signs suggesting a more serious illness or condition.
  • Consider referral to hospital if they have acute sore throat associated with severe systemic infection or severe suppurative complications (such as abscess).

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Symptomatic Relief

  • Consider analgesia:  paracetamol (or ibuprofen where appropriate).
  • Advise patient about adequate intake of fluids.
  • Patients report symptom relief from using over-the-counter products such as topical anaesthetics sprays and medicated lozenges containing local anaesthetics.
  • Advise to consult pharmacist for symptom relief.


pharyngitis table oct 8 2021

Patient Information

  • We recommend patients use the website developed by HSE/ICGP/IPU partnership for tips on how to get better from common infections without using antibiotics, what you can do for yourself or a loved one and when to seek help.

Safe Prescribing (visit the safe prescribing page)

Reviewed October 2021

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