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Most sore throats are caused by viruses. That means antibiotics, drugs used to treat bacterial infections, won’t help your child get better any faster.

There’s one exception: strep throat. Bacteria does cause that condition, so antibiotics will help. If you think your child may have strep, you should see a doctor to find out.

What to Try

If the sore throat stems from a cold virus, it’s going to need to run its course.

Try these home remedies to help your child feel better:

  • Make sure he gets plenty of rest and drinks a lot of fluids.
  • Use a humidifier.
  • Inhale steam. Run hot water in a sink. Drape a towel over your child’s head to trap the steam, and have him lean over the sink with the water running. Tell him to breathe deeply through his mouth and nose for 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat several times a day. (Be careful not to cause a steam burn, though.)
  • Apply a warm heating pad or compress to his throat.
  • Give him frozen treats like ice pops.
  • Have him sip chicken broth or warm tea with honey. Don’t give honey to a child under 12 months of age.

For an older child:

  • Have him gargle with warm salt water (1 teaspoon of salt per glass of water).
  • Give him throat lozenges or hard candy to suck on.

Over-the-counter cold medications may ease symptoms, too. But they won’t help your child get better any faster. Before you give your child any medication, talk to your doctor. And read the label carefully.