What to Do When Your Child Has a Sore Throat — Helpful Tips for Parents


As a parent, you often feel helpless when your child is sick. With winter illness season raging, kids will come home from school sooner or later complaining that their throat hurts. It’s the last thing you want to hear, but knowing what to do if your child has a sore throat is essential.

Acting quickly can help your child find relief from their symptoms and prevent dangerous complications. In this article, we’ll cover the causes of sore throats in children and how to help your child feel better when they have a sore throat.

How to Tell if Your Child Has a Sore Throat

In adults and older children, learning about a sore throat is as simple as hearing it from them. Though a sore throat is rare in small children, those under the age of two might not be able to communicate what they’re feeling. If your child can’t tell you their throat hurts, it’s important to know the signs. Keep an eye out for:

  • Refusing to eat or drink (even their favorite foods or treats)
  • Crying during breastfeeding/bottle feeding or eating
  • Redness in the back of the throat
  • White patches in the mouth or throat
  • Drooling

What Causes a Sore Throat in Children?

A sore throat is a broad term that isn’t associated with one particular illness. In fact, several things can cause a sore throat in children. A few of the most common are:

  • A Cold: Many sore throats accompany the coughing, runny nose, and fatigue of a cold.
  • Viruses: Multiple viruses can cause a sore throat with or without other symptoms. These are very common in children attending school or daycare.
  • Strep Throat: Unlike a viral sore throat, strep throat is caused by a bacterial infection. It is often accompanied by white patches on the throat or tonsils and should be treated with an antibiotic.
  • Excess Nasal Drainage: Drainage from a cold or sinus infection (and the throat clearing that comes with it) can irritate the throat.
  • Tonsil Abscess: Infections in the tonsils can irritate the throat. Tonsillar abscesses also tend to come with a fever and pain on one side of the throat. They should be evaluated and treated by a provider.
  • Epiglottitis: Epiglottitis is a bacterial infection of the tissue that covers the windpipe during swallowing. Drooling, severe sore throat, and a fever often accompany it. Epiglottitis is a medical emergency. Take your child to the ER immediately or call 911 if you suspect epiglottitis.

What Can I Do If My Child Has a Sore Throat?

Managing your child’s sore throat might be easier than you think. Providing symptom relief and preventing complications starts with some simple steps you can take at home. These are a few ideas to try if your child has a sore throat.

  • Offer cold liquids or frozen treats like popsicles or ice cream.
  • Offer warm drinks like chicken broth or apple juice.
  • Offer soft foods that don’t need much chewing (and avoid citrus, salty, or spicy foods).
  • For older children, try a saltwater gargle.
  • Give over-the-counter pain medicine (like Tylenol or Motrin) to relieve pain or fever (avoid Aspirin in children under 18 years old).
  • Ensure your child takes in plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

When to Seek Medical Care for Your Child’s Sore Throat

You may wonder when you should take your child to see a healthcare provider for a sore throat. Although many sore throats resolve on their own, some cases may require care from a medical professional.

For example, if you see white spots in your child’s throat, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment to check them for strep. If your child’s only symptom is a sore throat that lasts more than 48 hours, scheduling an appointment is also a good idea.

Sore throats that come with a cold may take longer to go away. If symptoms haven’t resolved after five days, consider making an appointment.

Of course, you should also seek medical help if you’re concerned that your child is dehydrated or refuses to eat or drink. They may need to receive fluids through an IV to keep them hydrated.

If you believe your child’s illness is life-threatening, call 911 right away. Otherwise, urgent care is a great place to take your child for sore throat treatment. You’ll avoid the long lines of the ER and often pay far less for your visit.

Velocity Urgent Care is Ready to Help

If your child has a sore throat, let Velocity Urgent Care help them feel better. Our friendly, experienced providers will assess their symptoms and determine the cause of their sore throat. From there, we’ll prescribe the right treatment to relieve their symptoms and get them on the road to recovery.

Stop in any of our conveniently located clinics across Virginia for rapid sore throat care when you need it, or make an appointment with our online registration portal to skip the waiting room. We even offer text message updates so you can wait in the car (if you prefer) until it’s time for your appointment.

We’ve put strict sterilization protocols into place and are carefully handling patients who may be contagious to ensure each of our clinics is safe for those who need urgent medical care or occupational health services.

Velocity Urgent Care is an in-network provider for most major insurance plans, meaning you can be seen for the cost of your co-pay and deductible.

All our locations also accept Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare. Veterans Administration beneficiaries are also welcome.

To learn more about our services, locations, hours, and more, visit www.velocityuc.com.