What is a Sore Throat? A sore throat is just what it sounds like, a sore,painful, itchy or scratchy throat often accompanied by difficulty swallowing. A sore throat is also known as Pharyngitis - inflammation of the Pharynx (back of the throat).
Sore Throat Diagnosis
How a sore throat presents and any symptoms that accompany it can help diagnose what is causing the sore throat.
Sore Throat Symptoms
Depending on the cause of the sore throat you may experience any of the following:
- A hoarse voice and pain/discomfort when talking
- Difficult or painful swallowing
- Dry, scratchy sensation in throat
- Enlarged tonsils (tonsillitis)
- Pain in the throat
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
Causes of a Sore Throat
The most common cause of a sore throat is a viral infection like the common cold, flu or glandular fever. Extremely swollen lymph nodes on the neck usually point to glandular fever.
Other causes of sore throats include:
Bacterial infection - only about 1 in 3 sore throats is caused by bacterial infection. Streptococcus Pyogenes, more commonly known as “strep” throat is one of the more serious bacterial infections. If a sore throat is caused by bacteria, it is usually worse than one caused by a virus and may need antibiotics or other medication to clear up.
Tonsillitis - infection and inflammation of the tonsils
Allergic Rhinitis - hay fever and allergies
Throat strain - yelling or talking for an extended time can strain or damage throat muscles and the pharynx leading to a hoarse voice and sore throat
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) - reflux can cause inflammation and burning in the throat
COVID-19 - Sore throat is an uncommon symptom of the coronavirus
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Sore Throat Self Care
If your sore throat is the result of strain, allergies or viral infection there are a number of things you can do at home to alleviate symptoms and soothe the discomfort including:
- Gargling Salt Water - gargling a saline solution of around ½ teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of water can sooth a sore throat and aid recovery by reducing the swelling in throat tissue.
- Honey - a teaspoon of honey can soothe a dry, sore throat. Honey and lemon drinks can be very effective at soothing a sore throat and aid in hydration.
- Hydration - staying well hydrated allows your body to produce enough saliva to coat the inside of the throat, aiding in the relief of discomfort and helping recovery. Warm drinks are soothing but it’s best to avoid very hot drinks as they may aggravate your already sensitive throat. Avoiding alcohol, caffeine and other drinks that can dehydrate is recommended.
- Over the Counter Medication - Throat lozenges and other over the counter medications for sore throat can help relieve symptoms.
- Steam - breathing in steam, from a cup of tea, a hot shower or a facial steam can help soothe a dry, sore throat.
See a Doctor If:
- Your sore throat lasts for more than 7 days
- You have difficulty breathing or talking
- You have difficulty swallowing
- You start drooling
- You have white patches in your mouth
- You have a fever
- You have swollen, tender glands in the neck
- You have ear pain
- You are vomiting
- You develop a rash or bruising
- Your neck stiffens