Sore throat in children

Children are prone to sore throats and other types of infections. In fact, in some cases they are more prone to a particular type of throat infection than an adult. One example of this is strep throat.

Coughs, ear infections and sore throats are three of the most common childhood infections.

Reasons for developing a throat infection

There are several reasons for this which includes:

  • Immature immune system
  • Contact with others who are infected, e.g. school
  • Throat infection as a symptom of another condition
  • Allergy

Immature/underdeveloped immune system

Children, especially toddlers, have underdeveloped immune systems which mean that they are prone to picking up a cold, bug or infection.

However, adults have developed immunity to many of these diseases and infections over time.

Contact with others who are infected

Many children are in regular contact with other youngsters which is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. Many of these are spread by personal contact, i.e. touching another child, or picking up a toy which has been handled by a child with an infection.

Viral infections such as colds can be spread by airborne droplets which carry the infection from one person to another. So, if an infected child coughs or sneezes then you can be sure that your child is likely to be next!

This is usually the case when a child goes to nursery or starts school. These environments involve bringing together a large group of children, often in a small space which enables germs and bacteria to spread very easily.

If you are a parent then you are probably all too familiar with this. You will find that you are constantly developing a sore throat, cold or stomach bug which has been passed from your child to you. Your child will act as a carrier for an infection, i.e. a cold, which they have now transmitted to you.

Throat infection as a symptom of another condition

Very often a sore throat is often a symptom of another condition, for example croup which is a common childhood condition. There are several conditions which children are susceptible to which cause a sore throat or throat infection amongst other symptoms.


Certain allergies cause a sore throat, for example, an allergy to animal fur or household dust.

Types of childhood sore throats

Strep throat

The most common type of sore throat seen in children is strep throat. Strep throat often develops in children under 7 and is a type of bacterial throat infection. This often means that it will require medication such as antibiotics to treat it.

Find out more about strep throat in our throat infections section.


Another popular throat infection is tonsillitis. Both adults and children suffer from this but children are especially prone. Tonsillitis is often accompanied by swollen or enlarged adenoids.

Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils which causes a sore throat, runny nose, fever and congestion. It often clears up by itself or with help from home remedies or over the counter products: but severe or chronic cases will require medical treatment.

Find out more about tonsillitis in our throat infections section.


Pharyngitis is another type of throat infection which is an inflammation of the pharynx (the area behind the nose which runs down to the larynx). It is often referred to as a sore throat but can be a side effect of an underlying disorder.

This is often caused by a virus and includes symptoms such as a sore throat, high temperature, swollen tonsils and earache.

Find out more about pharyngitis in our throat infections section.

Other causes of a sore throat in children

Sinus infections, allergies, head cold or ear infections all result in a sore throat. If these conditions cause a build up of mucus which then drains down the back of the nasal passages or via the middle ear then this will lead to a sore throat.

Another well known childhood condition which also causes a sore throat is glandular fever. This condition often affects children and teenagers and causes a range of symptoms which includes a sore throat.

Find out more about glandular fever in our throat infections section.

Treatment for sore throats in children

In most cases the sore throat will ease without the need for treatment although there are a few home based remedies you can use.

These include cold drinks such as lemonade, ice cream and juices. Ice lollies are popular with children and are easy to digest as are fruit smoothies.

Another option is to buy an over the counter product from a pharmacy to treat a sore throat. Honey and lemon, throat sweets (although not recommended for toddlers), throat sprays and throat syrups can help. Check with your pharmacist first or obtain medical advice if you are unsure as to what to give your child.

Do not give your child aspirin as there is a risk of this causing Reye’s syndrome which is potentially fatal. Reye’s syndrome is a rare disease which affects the liver and brain and if left untreated can be fatal.

For more information visit our treatment for a sore throat section.

If your child has a bacterial throat infection, for example strep throat then this may require antibiotics. Most cases of strep throat resolve themselves but if your child has difficulty in swallowing or his/her symptoms have worsened then see your GP.

Medical attention must be sought if your child has a sore throat or infection which causes breathing difficulties. One example of this is croup which causes the larynx to become swollen and inflamed, resulting in breathing problems.

This does not occur very often but if it does then it will require emergency medical treatment.

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