How to soothe a sore throat during pregnancy

GPs and a consultant obstetrician share their advice on how to soothe a sore throat during pregnancy.

A close up of a woman holding her hand to her neck for an article on how to soothe a sore throat
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We approached doctors for advice on how to soothe a sore throat during pregnancy and they shared their expertise and suggestions with us for how to manage the symptoms of a common sore throat at home.

When you’re pregnant, things like getting rid of a cough or soothing the sniffles become a little more difficult, as some of your usual go-to cold remedies or other bathroom cabinet medicine may not be suitable or safe to take during pregnancy. 

Having a sore throat is no different, so we consulted GPs Dr Paul van der Westhuizen and Dr Sanjeev Kalia, and consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Keith Duncan for their advice on how to soothe a sore throat during pregnancy.

“Throughout pregnancy, your immune system is adapting to support both you and your baby,” explains GP Dr Paul van der Westhuizen. “This makes the chance of catching a viral throat infection or cold higher.” Reassuringly, Dr van der Westhuizen and the other doctors we consulted for this article said that if you develop a sore throat while you're pregnant, you can often treat this yourself at home and usually it’s nothing to be too concerned about.  

However, Dr van der Westhuizen also said that if your sore throat is a symptom of a more serious illness, such as flu, then it is really important you seek medical advice from a doctor, “It’s important to note that the proper flu (influenza) in pregnancy can cause serious complications for you and your baby. For this reason, the NHS recommends a flu vaccine for all pregnant women. If you are concerned that you have the flu or your cold symptoms are not resolving, it’s important to contact your doctor or antenatal team.”

The information in this article is for general purposes only and does not take the place of medical advice. It is essential to be guided by your GP and take note of official NHS advice. You should immediately seek medical attention if your symptoms worsen or you are concerned about any element of your pregnancy. If you are unsure, concerned about your symptoms or feel unwell, then it is always best to seek personalised advice from a doctor as soon as possible.

​​How can you soothe a sore throat during pregnancy?

The options for soothing a sore throat during pregnancy are unfortunately quite limited. Aside from following NHS advice to rest and drink lots of water, Dr Keith Duncan told us that a simple hot lemon and honey drink is one of the best things you can drink (or gargle) to help soothe a sore throat: “I find the best way to get rid of a sore throat [during] pregnancy is to gargle with hot lemon and manuka honey which are natural antiseptics.” 

Dr Duncan also added that the type and strength of the honey you buy will impact how well it works to soothe a sore throat and promote healing: “you need to get the highest strength manuka honey for the bee for there to be a reasonable antibiotic effect.”

While the doctors we consulted all said that it was generally safe to eat honey whilst pregnant, Dr Kalia noted that in some instances you need to be mindful about the amount of sugar in the honey: “Some patients do have gestational diabetes (which is where you have high sugar levels during your pregnancy). If you do have this condition, you should be wary of taking anything that contains large amounts of sugar.” If you are at all in doubt, consult your doctor or antenatal team for personalised medical advice. 

Apart from trying a hot honey and lemon drink as suggested by Dr Duncan, Dr van der Westhuizen says, “The safest option for treating a sore throat throughout pregnancy is paracetamol.” The NHS states: “Paracetamol is the first choice of painkiller if you're pregnant. It is commonly taken during pregnancy and does not harm your baby.”

“Unfortunately, there are a whole host of medicines that normally would be safe to take, but during pregnancy are best avoided,” says Dr van der Westhuizen.

“Due to being pregnant the majority of medicines we rely upon to help with sore throats are unfortunately not appropriate,” says Dr Sanjeev Kalia. “This is because they could have an adverse effect on the foetus.”

Dr van der Westhuizen advises checking with your doctor if you aren’t sure about what medicines are safe to take during pregnancy: “As well as asking your doctors, a good place to check if the drug you are using is safe for pregnancy is by checking the BUMPS (Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy) website. This is a free, evidence-based website that provides medically accurate information about which medicines are safe to use throughout pregnancy.”

The NHS also has useful information about what’s safe to take during pregnancy here.

Dr Kalia also added that you should be wary of taking herbal remedies if you are pregnant, as not all herbal remedies are safe for use during pregnancy and some can contain substances such as lead which can be harmful for you and your baby. 

“You can however try some simple remedies like gargling with salt water, using steam inhalation which can open up any congestion you have to soothe your throat. You can also drink hot lemon and honey drinks. In addition, drinking camomile or ginger tea can also help,” says Dr Kalia. 

When should you see a doctor if you have a sore throat during pregnancy?

Dr Duncan describes having a sore throat during pregnancy as "very common", but he adds that in certain circumstances, you should get checked out by a doctor: “If you get more severe and you are struggling to swallow or have any breathing trouble then it’s essential you seek medical care and get reviewed by a doctor immediately.”

Dr Kalia agrees stating, "If the symptoms affect your breathing or cause difficulty in swallowing these are red flags."

Dr Duncan also adds that, "if you are struggling with a sore throat that appears to be going on for more than three or four days" you should also see a doctor.

This advice is echoed by Dr van der Westhuizen, who says, "A sore throat during pregnancy shouldn’t be anything to worry about unless your symptoms persist or are causing unmanageable pain and difficulty breathing." He also reiterates how important it is to get advice from a doctor if you think you might have the flu: “If your symptoms don’t improve after two or three weeks, get suddenly worse, or your temperature rises to 38°C or above, this could be a sign of the flu.

"Feeling hot and shivery, unmanageable throat pain, as well as difficulty and/or pain when breathing through your chest are also symptoms of flu to be on the lookout for, so make sure to get in contact with your GP if you notice any of these in yourself."

If in doubt, always speak to your doctor. Dr Kalia says, "As a general rule: if simple measures are not managing your symptoms, make an appointment with your GP."


The information on does not constitute medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. Although GoodtoKnow consults a range of medical experts to create and fact-check content, this information is for general purposes only and does not take the place of medical advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional or seek urgent medical attention if needed.

Our experts

Dr Keith Duncan
Dr Keith Duncan

Dr Keith Duncan is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at The Portland Hospital, which is part of HCA Healthcare UK. Dr Duncan is a highly regarded expert and lead consultant obstetrician in London who has over 30 years of experience. Mr Duncan has delivered more than 3,000 babies both in the NHS and as one of Europe's top private obstetricians. His areas of expertise include childbirth, cesarean, antenatal care, multiple pregnancies, ultrasound, and high-risk pregnancies.

Dr Paul Van der Westhuizen
Dr Paul Van der Westhuizen

Dr Paul van der Westhuizen is one of the practising GPs at Medichecks. Alongside his role at Medichecks, Paul is an out-of-hours GP, delivering urgent primary care to his local community, ranging from treating sick children to providing emergency palliative care. He has a keen interest in sport and anatomy and holds a postgraduate master’s degree in sports and exercise medicine from Trinity College Dublin. He also finds it “a privilege to have educated tomorrow’s doctors” by teaching anatomy to undergraduate medical students.

Dr Sanjeev Kalia
Dr Sanjeev Kalia

Dr Sanjeev Kalia is an experienced NHS General Practitioner who has worked as partner at three different surgeries in the Midlands over the past 9 years. In each of his surgeries he has been the lead for newborn baby health screening known as the ‘6-8 week check’. Dr Kalia has a strong interest in medical education and encourages patients to be empowered to self-manage their care through media such as apps and online platforms. He works as a GP trainer and for many years as a tutor to medical students as well as holding an interest in digital healthcare. He is also the founder of the baby burp cloth innovation, Avi Bear.

Recent updates

This article was last updated in December 2023 and was updated again on June 1st 2024 to add expert advice from Dr Paul Van der Westhuizen, Dr Sanjeev Kalia and Dr Keith Duncan, and to review the information provided and ensure it reflects current expert advice on the topic. 

Debra Waters
Freelance Lifestyle Writer

Debra Waters is an experienced online editor and parenting writer. She also has a strong background on health, wellbeing, beauty, and food. She currently writes for Goodto and Woman&Home, and print publications Woman, Woman’s Own, and Woman’s Weekly. Debra has written for What to Expect, Everyday Health, and Time Out. In addition, she has had articles published in The Telegraph and The Big Issue.

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