How Long Does a Sore Throat Last?

Woman touching her sore throat.
  • A sore throat is typically described as a feeling of itchiness, scratchiness, and pain that usually worsens when you swallow or talk.

  • Depending on the cause of your sore throat, discomfort can last anywhere from 24 hours to three weeks.

  • If your sore throat doesn’t get better within a couple of weeks, it’s recommended to see your doctor. Persistent sore throat symptoms can be a sign of a more severe illness caused by a viral or bacterial infection.

A sore throat is a common symptom of many mild to severe illnesses. Although over 200 million Americans experience a sore throat yearly, it’s not usually something to worry about.

However, if a sore throat persists for longer than the typical period of time, it might be a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor.

Learning how long a sore throat may last and what you should do if it doesn’t get better can help you avoid developing a more serious illness.

What is a Sore Throat?

A sore throat — also known as pharyngitis — is usually described as an itchy, scratchy, or painful sensation that worsens when you swallow and talk.

It’s caused by inflammation in the back of the throat and can often be the first sign of mild illness. However, most cases of sore throats are rarely cause for concern.

How Long Does a Sore Throat Usually Last?

Your sore throat may last for a few weeks or clear up in three days' time, depending on the cause of inflammation.

Let’s take a look at different illnesses that can cause a sore throat and how long they last. Common cold and flu

Common colds and the flu are usually the main cause of a sore throat. These illnesses trigger a post nasal drip that causes a constant flow of mucus into the throat, which leads to irritation.

A common cold or flu infection typically resolves in about one to two weeks. Your symptoms — like a sore throat — should improve within ten days.


Similar to colds and flu, allergies can irritate the sinuses and cause a postnasal drip to develop.

This drip inflames and irritates the throat, causing it to become painful.

Symptoms tend to resolve only when you’re no longer around the allergen, which means you may experience them for weeks or months.

If you’re not in contact with the allergen anymore, your sore throat should start to feel better within two to three weeks.

Strep throat

In rare cases, a sore throat might be the result of a more severe condition. This is commonly known as strep throat — a contagious bacterial infection.

You will probably need to take a rapid strep test to determine if you’ve been infected.

With the right professional care, symptoms may go away as soon as 24 hours after you’ve started to treat strep throat. In most cases, symptoms will last for up to five days.


A sore throat is one of the common symptoms of COVID-19. If your sore throat is caused by this virus, it could last anywhere from two to 14 days.

It’s always best to get tested for COVID-19 if you suspect that you may have been infected.

Is a sore throat causing you discomfort?

Don’t wait to feel better. Schedule an online appointment with a doctor or nurse practitioner.

How Long Will a Sore Throat Last Without Treatment?

The length of time a sore throat lasts without treatment will vary, depending on the cause of the infection.

If your sore throat isn’t caused by a serious illness, it may start to feel better in about seven to ten days.

It’s recommended that you seek professional care if your symptoms don’t improve by then, or if you suspect that your sore throat is caused by a viral infection.

When Should I See a Doctor About My Sore Throat?

Although a sore throat isn’t usually cause for concern, knowing when to see your doctor about it is essential for treating more severe conditions.

Make an appointment with a medical professional if:

  • You experience extreme pain that affects your daily activities

  • You have difficulty swallowing

  • Your symptoms haven’t improved within ten days

Your doctor may need to do a few tests to rule out any viral infections — like strep throat or rheumatic fever — in your diagnosis.

They may also prescribe antibiotics to help treat and soothe a sore throat.

Where Can I Learn More About Sore Throats and Other Illnesses?

If your sore throat persists or worsens, you can speak to a board-certified physician or nurse practitioner from the comfort of your home.

They can help get your sore throat diagnosed and treated quickly, no matter the cause.

Head over to LifeMD to make a telehealth appointment.

Shanta Williams, APRN

Shanta is a board-certified, multi-state NP who has worked in healthcare for over 14 years. She earned her M.S. in Family Nurse Practitioning. In 2020, she was one of the first Nurse Practitioners to assist with the COVID-19 outbreak in New York.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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