Experts found the majority of sore throats are triggered by a viral infection.
Most people get better without antibiotics, usually experiencing symptoms for up to a week, but research suggests antibiotics are prescribed in 60 per cent of cases.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence today said doctors should help sufferers manage their symptoms with paracetamol or ibuprofen which can be bought for as little as 19p.
Dr Tessa Lewis, chair of the managing common infections guidance committee, said: “A sore throat can be very painful, making you feel tired and unwell for about a week.
“But in most cases antibiotics will not make much difference. Instead, we should drink plenty of fluids and rest.
“Paracetamol can help to relieve pain and control temperature.”
Of all GP appointments made in the UK for respiratory tract infections one in four are for sore throats.
“Medicated lozenges containing either a local anaesthetic, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or an antiseptic only help to reduce pain by a small amount.
Professor Cliodna McNulty, of Public Health England, said: “Antibiotics are a precious resource and it’s important they are only used when they are really needed.
“For a sore throat, evidence shows that antibiotics make little difference to length or severity of illness, unless symptoms are much more severe.
“While a sore throat can be painful, there are other ways to control the symptoms including taking paracetamol and medicated lozenges.”
New guidance says people who have a sore throat caused by streptococcal bacteria are more likely to benefit from antibiotics.
Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive at NICE, said: “The evidence shows antibiotics are not an effective treatment for the majority of sore throats.
“People who need them should be given them, and our advice will support those decisions.
“But it is clear that routine prescribing in all cases isn’t appropriate.
“We are living in a world where bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics.
“It is vital these medicines are protected, and only used when they are effective.”