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10-minute clinic: sore throat


10-minute clinic: sore throat

This handy 10-minute clinic is designed to act as a quick reference guide that will help you when advising customers in different category areas. The flowchart leads you through the decision-making process to help you respond to customer queries. This month, we look at the advice you can offer and the products you can recommend to customers suffering from sore throat

At a glance

Whenever you talk to any customer, remember WWHAM:

Who is it for?

It may not be the customer who needs the treatment. Remember that many sore throat products have a high sugar content and should be avoided by people with diabetes.

What are the symptoms?

Sore throats caused by viral infections are often accompanied by other symptoms, such as a blocked or runny nose and headache. 

How long have the symptoms been present?

This will help establish what may be causing the sore throat.

Action already taken?

This will help you find out if the customer has tried a product that
has not helped. 


It is important to refer customers who are taking other medicines, or who have another medical condition, to the pharmacist for further advice.

You don’t have to ask these questions in order, and a customer might give you some of this information without you asking. As long as you get the points covered in each question into the conversation, you should be able to find out the information you need in order to make an appropriate recommendation. 

The golden rule to remember is: if in doubt, refer to the pharmacist. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for their advice as they have a lot of information about products and symptoms to hand that you may not be aware of.

When to refer to the pharmacist

 The person has a fever
•  The sore throat has lasted over seven days
•  There are spots on the throat or tongue
•  There is any neck stiffness or severe soreness
•  The person has difficulty swallowing or breathing
•  The sore throat has worsened quickly
•  There is a skin rash of any description
•  The customer is on medicines that affect the immune system.

Self care tips

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Warm drinks containing lemon juice and honey can be particularly soothing for the throat
  • Don’t smoke
  • Gargle with soluble aspirin (adults only) or warm salt water
  • Don’t share drinks, cutlery, etc.  


•  The NHS
 ENT UK: 020 7404 8373 
 Covid-19 information.


According to the World Health Organization, a sore throat can be a sign of Covid-19. It is not considered one of the most common symptoms, although some people with the virus may suffer from it.

If a sore throat is accompanied by one or more of the three main symptoms of Covid-19, individuals should get a test as soon as possible to check if they have the virus. They should isolate at home and not have visitors until they get the test result, only leaving their home to have the test. Anyone they live with, and anyone in their support bubble, must also stay at home until the test result is received. If the result is positive, they should self-isolate for a minumum of 10 days from the onset of symptoms.

According to the NHS, the three main symptoms of Covid-19 are:

1.  A high temperature – this means feeling hot to touch on the chest or back (they do not need to measure their temperature)
2.  A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours. If the individual usually has a cough, it may be worse than usual
3.  A loss or change to the senses of smell or taste – this means noticing that the senses of smell and taste are gone or things smell or taste different to normal.

If someone is worried about possible symptoms of Covid-19 or don’t know what to do, they should find out what steps to take by using the NHS 111 online coronavirus service.

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