Sore throat and headache are common symptoms of several conditions. Along with sore throat and headache, you may have fever or fatigue. These signs may indicate an infection. Sore throat and headache usually go away on their own after about a week. But talk to your provider if you have signs of strep throat or meningitis, which need treatment.
Most people get headaches many times during their lives. A headache causes pain in your head or face. The pain may be throbbing, sharp or dull.
A sore throat (pharyngitis) is pain or irritation in your throat. It might feel scratchy, painful or dry. It often hurts more when you swallow.
Sometimes, you have both a headache and sore throat. Most often, an infection causes those symptoms to happen together.
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If you have a sore throat, headache and a fever, then you probably have an infection. A fever is your body’s way of fighting infection.
The combination of fever, sore throat and headache could be due to:
Sore throat and headaches are common symptoms. Almost everyone will experience these symptoms at least once in their life.
Most of the time, your healthcare provider will diagnose you based on your symptoms and a physical exam. You may need a throat swab to diagnose strep throat. Your healthcare provider uses a stick with a cotton swab at the end to take a throat sample. They analyze the sample for bacteria to see if you have an infection.
You may need other tests, such as a blood test or imaging scans, to rule out other infections.
Many conditions can cause you to get both a headache and sore throat. You could have both of these discomforts due to a:
Viral infection, such as:
Bacterial infection, including:
Other conditions, such as:
Rarely, your headache and sore throat may be from:
If you have both a headache and sore throat, it could be a viral or bacterial infection. They have similar symptoms.
If you have a runny nose, cough and hoarse voice, you most likely have a viral rather than bacterial infection. There are no medications to treat viral infections. The virus will go away on its own. You usually feel better in about a week.
If it’s bacterial, your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics, such as penicillin.
When you have a sore throat, you may have:
Your headache symptoms may include pain that:
Usually, you can treat sore throat and headache with at-home remedies. If you have strep throat, your provider will prescribe antibiotics to get rid of it. Take all the medicine, even though you’ll start to feel better within a day or two.
At-home treatments for sore throat and headache include:
If your child has a headache and sore throat, remember:
The best way to prevent sore throat and headache is to avoid infections and illness. Tips include:
A sore throat and headache can usually go away within a week. Most of the time, you won’t need medical treatment. There are usually no long-term complications.
If you do have strep throat, make sure to take the full course of antibiotics. These drugs treat the infection and prevent complications, including rheumatic fever.
You can try at-home sore throat and headache remedies. But see a healthcare provider if your symptoms last for more than a week, or if they go away but come back.
You should also see a provider if you have these symptoms along with your sore throat and headache:
You should also be on the lookout for signs of meningitis. This life-threatening condition has flu-like symptoms. If you or your child has signs of meningitis, seek immediate medical help.
Meningitis symptoms include:
If you have a sore throat or headache, wait until you have been symptom-free for at least 24 hours before returning to work. Your child should stay home from school or day care until they have been symptom-free for 24 hours.
If you have strep throat, you can usually return to work or school once the fever is gone and you have taken antibiotics for at least 24 hours.
If you have a sore throat and headache, ask your healthcare provider:
Sore throat and headache are common symptoms. Often, they’re signs of a viral or bacterial infection. For a viral infection, you most likely won’t need medications. The virus will clear up on its own in about a week. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids. You can take over-the-counter pain relievers to feel better. Your healthcare provider may want to check for signs of strep throat or meningitis, which need treatment. If you have a sudden high fever, neck stiffness or other worrying symptoms, see your healthcare provider.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/12/2021.
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