It’s the time of year where winter illnesses start to become more common, from coughs, colds and flu to a throat infection. When you have a sore throat it can be uncomfortable to eat, drink and talk.

Getting the right treatment is important to help you get back to feeling yourself again, but to do so you need to know what’s causing your sore throat.

The cause of your sore throat isn’t always obvious, but they are usually caused by an infection which can be either viral or bacterial. Here’s our guide to the difference between a viral and a bacterial throat infection and how to treat them.

What’s the difference between a viral and bacterial throat infection?

A viral infection is the most common cause of a sore throat according to the NHS. If your sore throat is caused by a virus, antibiotics are unlikely to help. Instead there are a range of products that are available over the counter at your local LloydsPharmacy, which can help ease your symptoms while your body fights the infection.

There are a variety of infections that are bacterial, including streptococcus A (also known as Strep A). Strep A is a bacterial infection that affects your throat, causing a variety of symptoms as well as pain. This type of infection can be treated with antibiotics.

How can I know which throat infection I have?

One easy way to tell the difference is to ask if your local LloydsPharmacy is offering the Sore Throat Test and Treat Service. During the service our Pharmacist will ask you a series of questions and examine your throat. If necessary, they will take a swab test for the Strep A bacterial infection. If your result is positive for Strep A then your Pharmacist can provide you with antibiotics to treat it if appropriate. If the result is negative then they can advise on the best over the counter treatment for you.

How can I treat my sore throat?

There are many sore throat remedies that can help ease your symptoms. Pain relief such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can help with the pain, and reduce a high temperature if you have one. You could also try lozenges or throat sprays to help numb your throat. You should also make sure to get plenty of rest and keep your fluid intake up. If you’re looking for another treatment, you could try gargling with warm salt water (not suitable for children) and sucking on ice cubes or sweets.