Harvard Men's Health Watch

On call: Pharyngitis

On call


Q. I seem to get three or four sore throats a year. I don't want to run to my doctor for antibiotics every time. How can I tell when I need treatment and when I don't?

A. All of us have had sore throats from time to time. A scratchy throat is no big deal, but when the pain is severe and when it's accompanied by fever, it may need medical attention. Here is a quick rundown on some common causes of sore throat:

Strep throat is caused by one particular strain of bacteria, the group A strep. It's the main worry for people with sore throats since it can lay you low and can sometimes cause rheumatic fever, kidney disease, or other complications. Serious complications are now very rare in the U.S., and many of us carry group A strep in our throats without any illness at all. Still, if you have a sore throat caused by strep you should take a full course of antibiotics.

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