Woman with her hand on her throat holding a mug.

What is sore throat?

When your throat is irritated, inflamed, scratchy, painful, or very dry, it’s called sore throat. Your throat can be sore from a bacterial or viral infection, allergies or irritants, acid reflux, vocal overuse and strain, or even sleeping with your mouth open for too long. The pain may be worse when you swallow.

Depending on what’s causing your sore throat, you can often relieve the pain and irritation by drinking warm liquids or taking throat lozenges. Sore throat caused by a viral infection usually clears up on its own after a few days of rest. A throat infection caused by bacteria is called strep throat. Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy