Baby Sore Throat: Causes, Symptoms And Home Remedies

Throat Infection In Babies

Image: Shutterstock

The baby won’t feed for sure. Simply put, a sore throat in babies is so painful that it throws the routine out of place and affects everyday activities such as breastfeeding and sleeping.

Sore throat is usually the leading sign of a throat infection. Prompt treatment and prevention are vital to help the baby be at ease and continue getting nutrition. MomJunction helps you learn what causes a sore throat in infants, the cure, and ways to shield the baby from the infection.

What Causes Sore Throat In Babies?

Sore throat could be a symptom of various conditions. Here are the most common ones:

  1. Viral infections are the leading cause of a sore throat in babies (1). A plethora of viruses can cause it, but the common ones are the cold virus, adenovirus, influenza (flu) virus, coxsackievirus, and herpes virus (2) (3) (4) (5).
  1. Bacterial infections are caused by Streptococcus (strep throat) and Corynebacterium diphtheriae (diphtheria) (6) (7). Both lead to a severe sore throat.
  1. Allergies caused by inhalation of potential allergens such as pollens, particles of wheat flour, or molds, can lead to an itchy and sore throat. An allergy where sore throat is quite common is called allergic rhinitis (8).
  1. In gastroesophageal reflux disease, the baby’s poorly developed lower esophageal sphincter does not close properly. The stomach acids and other contents flow upwards as far as the throat and cause constant irritation to the throat, leading to chronic sore throat (9).
  1. Smoke and pollution, such as suspended air particles, affect the baby’s delicate throat lining, and eventually cause a sore throat.

The sore throat in infants can easily be spotted by a parent.

Excessive mucous discharge and red blisters around mouth and parts of the body are bad news! You must take your baby to a doctor as soon as you notice these!

Back to top

What Are The Symptoms Of Sore Throat?

Here is what to look out for when you think that the baby has a sore throat (10).

  1. Redness on the inside of the throat: Every time the baby opens his mouth to eat or cry, you notice a dark-red hue at the back of the mouth where the throat begins.
  1. Difficulty swallowing: The baby has trouble taking solid food or breastmilk. There is a sudden aversion towards eating, and when the baby is hungry, he stops eating midway due to the pain while swallowing.
  1. White patches on the tonsils: Infected tonsils develop white spots that ooze pus. Pus is made of white blood cells that defend the body against pathogens. And, the presence of pus indicates an infection.
  1. Swollen neck: Inflammation is noticed from the outside, as the baby’s tonsils appear swollen.
  1. Hoarse voice: Older infants who can speak a bit will talk in a muffled and hoarse tone due to the inflammation of the tonsils.
  1. Cough: The irritation caused by a sore throat can make a baby cough repeatedly.

Sore throat is usually a benign condition, which can be addressed at home through some home remedies that are safe for the baby.

Back to top

Home Remedies For Sore Throat In Babies

Home remedies are a good way to alleviate the discomfort caused by a sore throat. Here is what you can do to make the baby feel better.

  • Give sips of warm water. It is a safe home remedy recommended by the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) for babies three months and older (11). Heat drinking water till it is warm enough to swallow comfortably. Give 5-15ml of water about four times a day as it relieves itchy, sore throat symptoms and inflammation.
  • Give a warm broth made of chicken or vegetables, to infants older than six months. Cook vegetable or chicken broth, cool it till it is warm, and then feed to the baby (12).
  • Provide adequate fluids and breastfeed more than normal to babies below six months to soothe the throat irritation. Babies older than six months should be given a lot of fluids to calm the soreness. Feed diluted purees, broths, and stocks. Do not give fruit juice as it is not helpful and offers no nutritional benefits (13).
  • Install a humidifier in the infant’s room to maintain ideal water vapor levels. Dry air can irritate the baby’s sore throat, and optimum humidity relieves irritation. Use a cool-mist humidifier and not a hot-water/steam vaporizers as they increase the risk of nasal burns (14).

Pediatric experts recommend against the usage of infant throat syrups and lozenges since they do not provide many benefits (15). Remember, if your baby is younger than three months, then do not try any home remedy. Instead take him to a doctor right away for consultation and treatment.

Back to top

When To Rush To A Doctor?

Take your baby to the doctor right away if a sore throat is accompanied by:

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Excessive mucus discharge from the nose
  • Red blisters around the mouth and parts of the body
  • Dizziness
  • Poor appetite

A doctor would arrive at conclusive results only after running a thorough diagnosis on the baby’s condition.

Back to top

How Is Sore Throat In Babies Diagnosed?

The process involves one or more of these methods depending on the severity of the condition:

  1. Physical examination: The doctor checks for redness and inflammation inside the baby’s throat while looking for pus on the tonsils. Parents are also asked questions to know if the baby has trouble breastfeeding and sleeping.
  1. Throat swab: A sterile swab is run across the baby’s tonsils and the collected mucus is tested for the presence of a pathogen.
  1. Blood test: A blood test helps in an accurate detection of the underlying pathogen.

Diagnosis reveals the actual cause of the sore throat, paving way for the appropriate treatment.

Back to top

How To Treat Sore Throat In Infants?

Sore throat usually does not require treatment and cures by itself (16). A doctor may, however, prescribe medications to treat the underlying condition. Antibiotics are prescribed if the sore throat is caused by bacteria. Viral infections seldom require medication since symptoms lose their intensity in a week to ten days.

Experts recommend avoiding medication for sore throat in infants unless the problem is severe (17). But as babies are totally uncomfortable with a sore throat, you may wonder…

Back to top

How Long Does Sore Throat Last?

It depends on the disease or infection that led to the problem. A sore throat caused by the common cold may resolve in a couple of days, but the one due to herpes may take several weeks.

Therefore, you must look for ways to prevent your baby from getting a sore throat. Read the next section to know how!

Back to top

How To Prevent Sore Throat In Babies?

It is quite simple to keep a sore throat at bay. Here is what you must do.

  1. Protect from pathogens: Maintain hygiene around the baby by keeping the surroundings clean. Clean toys and the baby’s little hands regularly as infants tend to put toys and hands in their mouth. Wash your hands before holding the baby and handling his personal items. If a family member, including a baby’s sibling, has cold or fever, then keep the baby away from that individual till the person cures. These steps help in minimizing the risk of an infection that could eventually lead to a sore throat.
  1. Be watchful of allergies: Stay alert to any symptom that could point to allergies. Timely detection of allergy helps you shield the baby from the allergen that could cause a sore throat.
  1. Keep the air around the baby clean: Dust, smoke, and other airborne pollutants can lead to a sore throat. Close the windows in the house when it is dusty outside. Avoid taking a newborn to places where the air is polluted with automobile exhaust.

Back to top

Sore throat could be a source of misery for an infant, but it is also a condition that is easily preventable. If the baby gets sore throat, easy home remedies can help them feel better.

Have something to share? Leave us a comment below.

Was this information helpful?

The following two tabs change content below.

Rohit Garoo

Rohit Garoo took writing as a profession right after finishing his MBA in Marketing. Earlier he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Botany & Zoology from the autonomous St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai. Rohit has also done a Stanford University certification course on breastfeeding. This botanist-zoologist turned writer excels at life sciences, and at MomJunction he writes everything about pediatrics and maternal care. In between writing and being overly curious, he spends time cooking, reading, and playing video games. LinkedIn profile –
FaceBook Pinterest Twitter Featured Image