Got a niggly sore throat but can't find the time to get to the doctor?

More than 300 pharmacies across New Zealand are now offering a quick throat screening service that can be accessed while on a lunch break or on the way home from work.

A trained pharmacist will swab the person's throat and report back within 10 minutes whether the infection is viral - such as influenza - or a bacterial infection like strep throat. If the latter, the person will be referred to their GP for further treatment.

Four in five sore throats are viral, which means antibiotics will have no effect. In this case patients may be better off just buying over-the-counter medicine to treat the symptoms.


The service is only available for those aged over 19, Green Cross Health spokesperson Lauren Kilkolly said. Adults "tend to be the worried well" and can get peace of mind with a quick stop in to a pharmacist, many of which are open seven days and in the evening.

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"Children with sore throats carry much bigger risks. It could be the lead-up to rheumatic fever so we recommend with kids that they always go to the doctor."

The pharmacist will also carry out a consultation, asking about symptoms and health history. If they have any concerns that the viral infection could be serious they will refer the person to a doctor, Kilkolly said.

"We do always recommend that if your symptoms get worse or there is no improvement after three days, to visit your GP."

The service is offered by most Unichem and Life pharmacies nationwide from June 24.