How many times do you have to wake up in the morning with a sore throat before it is time to set the cough drops aside and seek medical attention? It is a question that many who suffer from chronic sore throat ask. Because a chronic sore throat can be an indicator of a far more serious condition, the answer to the question needs to be: a brief period of time.

A sore throat can be a sign of the flu. It can also be caused by smoking. Sometimes pollutants are the culprit. Mononucleosis (often called “mono”) could be to blame. Allergies also often cause a person to wake up with a sore throat due to post nasal drip. While some of these conditions should clear up on their own, and others are correctable via lifestyle changes, if you have a sore throat that persists for a number of days, you should consult a physician.

If your sore throat is being caused by a bacterial infection, it is nothing to scoff at. Strep throat, if it is not treated using antibiotics, can result in a serious heart condition known as rheumatic fever. This is also why it is vital to finish your antibiotics when they are prescribed for a condition like strep throat.

If your sore throat is from the flu, it will probably go away after a few days. For those who are at high risk due to age or a compromised immune system, antivirals may be prescribed to help. These can lessen the symptoms of the flu and help the disease pass faster.

For a temporarily sore throat, something like a cough drop is usually sufficient to make the discomfort bearable. Something cold, like sucking on a popsicle, can numb the area a bit and make it more comfortable (plus you get to eat a popsicle). Warm drinks such as tea may also help. You can also take a pain reliever such as ibuprofen, aspirin or acetaminophen. Gargling a little salt water may help a more severe case of sore throat.

Just be sure that if your sore throat gets worse or doesn’t clear up in a few days that you see your doctor to make sure it isn’t something more serious.