Can Antibiotics Cause Sore Throat

A sore throat is a very common ailment. It can be a symptom of a large number of other conditions, which range from serious to very minor. Some antibiotic medications are thought to have side effects including a sore throat, which this article will talk about below, along with simple remedies you can do at home to ease your sore throat and when to see a doctor.

What is a sore throat?

Symptoms of sore throat

Aside from the obvious pain in the throat, symptoms can also include swollen neck glands, redness in back of the throat, pain when swallowing, a dry and scratchy throat, bad breath or a mild cough.1 

Causes of sore throat

Whilst these symptoms are not pleasant, most of the time a sore throat is not too serious. They are usually caused by a virus, but can also be caused by smoking or more rarely, bacterial infections such as strep throat. 6 Laryngitis, glandular fever and tonsillitis are all examples of more serious bacterial or viral infections that can cause a sore throat.1 There is also the possibility that your sore throat is a result of medical intervention such as surgery, or a side effect of taking certain types of antibiotic medication.

What antibiotics can cause sore throat?

Antibiotics are not usually prescribed to treat a sore throat unless a doctor believes that you have a bacterial infection such as strep throat.1,6 This is because they are not usually necessary as the majority of sore throats are viral infections; antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. There is also a growing concern surrounding antibiotic resistance, which stems from the overprescription of antibiotics, so unless taking antibiotics is completely necessary, you are unlikely to be prescribed them.

If you have been prescribed antibiotics to treat a condition, then there is a possibility that the medication can have unpleasant side effects, which can include a sore throat; for example, Amoxicillin.3 Discuss any possible side effects with your doctor when they prescribe you antibiotics, so you know what to expect and how to deal with it. In addition, a doctor should be sought out if you are experiencing side effects from your medication and you are unsure about how serious they are. 

It is important to note that allergic reactions to antibiotics may also cause a sore throat. Allergies to penicillin and cephalosporins are relatively common (one in fifteen people). This can lead to symptoms such as a rash, coughing, wheezing and tightness in the throat.2 If you experience any of these symptoms in combination then go to see a doctor.

A more serious form of allergic reaction is anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening but starts off feeling similar to a less serious allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis has symptoms that include difficulty breathing, feeling faint, a fast heartbeat, confusion, stomach pain, anxiety, nausea/feeling or being sick, and losing consciousness. In this situation, seek medical attention immediately as this is a potentially life-threatening emergency.

Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a rare but serious reaction that can occur in response to taking antibiotics, most commonly penicillins, cephalosporins, quinolones and minocycline. It usually begins with symptoms like a fever or sore throat, and can result in blisters and a painful rash.5 As with anaphylaxis, emergency medical attention is necessary in these circumstances.

Home remedies and treatment

Unless you suspect you are having a dangerous allergic reaction, if your doctor has recommended that you take antibiotics, you should continue to do so. It is very important to not stop taking antibiotics unless a doctor says so; as mentioned earlier, antibiotic resistance is a growing concern in the medical community. Any unpleasant side effects that you experience, such as mild sore throat, can be eased through other methods rather than stopping taking the medication. 

There are many home remedies that you can try, such as gargling with salt water (though children should not do this). Additionally, you can eat soft or cool foods, suck ice cubes or hard sweets (again do not give these to young children), drink lots of water, and avoid smoking or being in places where there may be smoke. Rest is also likely to help, so stay at home if you do not feel up to doing your everyday tasks. Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen may work, as well as lozenges containing anaesthetic or anti-inflammatory medicine.

When to seek medical attention 

It is important to seek out a medical professional if you get sore throats often, if a sore throat lasts for longer than a week, if you have a very high temperature, or if your immune system is already weakened (for example, because of chemotherapy or diabetes).1 These may be symptoms of an underlying condition that needs treatment.

In addition, if you suspect that you are having an allergic reaction to your antibiotics, it is important to see a doctor as a matter of urgency. Antibiotics can have other side effects than a sore throat; for example, fluoroquinolones can have severe side effects affecting the joints, so if you are taking these and experience tendon, muscle or joint pain then stop taking the medication and seek medical attention at once.2 


Whilst a sore throat is usually due to a viral infection, or more rarely a bacterial one, some antibiotics have a sore throat as a side effect. Additionally, allergic reactions to antibiotics can lead to a sore throat as one of many symptoms. It is important to seek medical help if you suspect you are having an allergic reaction to your medication, however a mild sore throat without any other dangerous symptoms can be treated at home by several simple remedies. It is important that you do not stop taking your antibiotics without talking to a doctor first.


  1. Sore throat. [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2022 Sep 25]. Available from:
  2. Antibiotics - Side effects. [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2022 Sep 25]. Available from:
  3. Side Effects of Amoxil (Amoxicillin), Warnings, Uses. RxList [Internet]. [cited 2022 Sep 25]. Available from:
  4. Ng GJ, Tan S, Vu AN, Mar CBD, Driel ML van. Antibiotics for preventing recurrent sore throat. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2022 Sep 28]; (7). Available from:
  5. 6. [Internet]. [cited 2022 Sep 28]. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Amelia Summers

BSc (Hons) Neuroscience - University of Exeter

Amelia Summers is a recent graduate in Neuroscience, a multidisciplinary course that covered areas including pharmacology, disease pathology and psychology. She has experience in medical writing, data analysis and practical laboratory skills. Her final year research project in university was a scientific communications dissertation, compiling a profile of articles and essays aimed at a variety of different audiences, under the heading of ‘Antidepressants, Antipsychotics and Weight’.

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