A sore throat refers to pain, itchiness, or irritation of the throat. It may cause difficulty swallowing food and liquids, and the pain may get worse when you try to swallow.
It can affect people of all ages, but the risk of a sore throat is higher in children, people who smoke, people with allergies and people with a compromised immune system.
Sharing a close space with others also increases the risk of upper respiratory infections that can initially present as a sore throat.
Several things can cause a sore throat, including:
- Viral infection- Most sore throats are caused by a virus, such as the common cold or the flu.
- Mononucleosis, which is an infectious disease typically transmitted through saliva.
- Measles, which is a contagious illness characterized by a distinct rash and fever.
- Chickenpox, which is an infection that causes skin sores
- Croup, which is an infection of the larynx
- Bacterial infection
- Strep throat, which is an inflammation of the throat caused by the Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria
- Diphtheria, which causes throat inflammation
- Whooping cough, which affects the respiratory mucous membrane
- Environmental factors
- Allergens such as mold, pet dander, pollen, or other irritants can trigger postnasal drip. Postnasal drip occurs when excess mucus accumulates in the back of your throat. This accumulation can irritate your throat and cause pain or inflammation.
- Dry air can make your throat feel raw and scratchy.
- Smoking cigarettes or breathing in cigarette smoke can trigger persistent sore throats.
- Yelling or too much talking can trigger throat strain.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive condition that occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. It may also cause a sore throat and may include symptoms like hoarseness, heartburn and nausea
- Other causes. In very rare cases, a sore throat may be a sign of HIV or throat cancer.
Throat pain is the primary symptom of a sore throat. However, other symptoms may include:
- A Dry Throat
- Swollen Glands in the Neck
- White Patches on the Tonsils
To treat you symptoms, the doctor should first determine the cause of your sore throat. The doctor may perform the following:
- Physical Examination– Your doctor will look at your throat with a lighted instrument to see any signs of inflammation or white patches, which might indicate strep throat. Your doctor will also feel your neck for swollen glands and check your breathing.
- Laboratory Test– Because strep throat is a common cause of sore throats, your doctor may swab the back of your throat and examine the sample for S. pyogenes.
- Blood Test– It helps in determining whether you have a viral or bacterial infection.
If your doctor is unable to diagnose your sore throat, they’ll refer you to an allergist or an ear, nose, and throat specialist. These specialists can determine whether an allergen or a throat disorder is the cause of your sore throat.
Note that it can be difficult to diagnose a sore throat in infants and toddlers. In this age group, refusal to eat is a common sign of throat irritation.
The treatment for a sore throat depends on the cause. However, you can treat many sore throats at home. Home treatment options include:
- Gargling with Warm Salt Water
- Drinking Plenty of Warm Fluids, Such as Tea, Soup, and Water
- Avoiding Allergens and Irritants, Such as Smoke and Chemicals
- Taking Throat Lozenges
- Reducing Inflammation with Ibuprofen (Advil)
- Using Medications Such as Acetaminophen (Tylenol)