A sore throat is a painful, dry, or scratchy feeling in the throat.
Sore throats are divided into types — pharyngitis, tonsillitis, and laryngitis — based on the part of the throat they affect.
Pain in the throat is one of the most common symptoms, which accounts for more than 2%Trusted Source of all adult primary care visits each year.
Most sore throats are caused by infections, or by environmental factors like dry air. Although a sore throat can be uncomfortable, it will usually go away on its own.
Sore throats are divided into types, based on the part of the throat they affect:
- Pharyngitis causes swelling and soreness in the throat.
- Tonsillitis is swelling and redness of the tonsils, the soft tissue in the back of the mouth.
- Laryngitis is swelling and redness of the voice box, or larynx.
Sore throat symptoms
The symptoms of a sore throat can vary depending on what caused it. A sore throat can feel:
It may hurt more when you swallow or talk. Your throat or tonsils might also look red.
Sometimes, white patches or areas of pus will form on the tonsils . These white patches are more common in strep throat than in a sore throat caused by a virus.
Along with the sore throat, you may also have symptoms like:
swollen glands in the neck
Strep throat vs. sore throat
Sore throat may be a symptom of strep throat, which is an infection caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, a type of bacteria.
In addition to a sore throat, strep throat can also cause other symptoms, including
pain when swallowing
swollen lymph nodes
red or swollen tonsils, which sometimes have white patches
small red spots on the roof of the mouth
nausea or vomiting
Unlike other conditions that can cause a sore throat, strep throat is not associated with coughing, runny nose, pink eye, or hoarseness.
Additionally, while a sore throat usually improves on its own over time, strep throat requires treatment with an antibiotic.
Sore throat vs. COVID-19
COVID-19 is a viral infection that can cause a range of symptoms, including a sore throat.
Other possible symptoms of COVID-19 include:
fever or chills
shortness of breath
loss of taste or smell
nasal congestion or runny nose
nausea or vomiting
If you experience any of these symptoms in addition to a sore throat or have recently been exposed to COVID-19, you may want to consider getting tested.
Viral vs. bacterial sore throat
A sore throat is usually caused by viral infections, including the common cold, flu, measles, and chickenpox.
In most cases, a sore throat caused by a viral infection will improve on its own over time without any treatment.
On the other hand, a sore throat caused by a bacterial infection may require treatment with antibiotics to prevent complications.
If you experience severe symptoms or if your sore throat lasts longer than one week, talk to a doctor to determine the cause and best course of treatment for you.
8 causes of sore throats
Causes of sore throats range from infections to injuries. Here are eight of the most common sore throat causes.
1. Colds, flu, and other viral infections
Sore throat is usually caused by a viral infection. Among the viruses that cause sore throats are:
the common cold
influenza — the flu
mononucleosis, an infectious disease that’s transmitted through saliva
measles, an illness that causes a rash and fever
chickenpox, an infection that causes a fever and an itchy, bumpy rash
mumps, an infection that causes swelling of the salivary glands in the neck
2. Strep throat and other bacterial infections
Bacterial infections can also cause sore throats. The most common one is strep throat, an infection of the throat and tonsils caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria.
Strep throat causes nearly 20-30% of sore throat cases in children. Tonsillitis and sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia can also cause a sore throat.
When the immune system reacts to allergy triggers like pollen, grass, and pet dander, it releases chemicals that cause symptoms like nasal congestion, watery eyes, sneezing, and throat irritation.
Excess mucus in the nose can drip down the back of the throat. This is called postnasal drip and can irritate the throat.
4. Dry air
Dry air can suck moisture from the mouth and throat, and leave them feeling dry and scratchy. The air is most likely dry in the winter months when the heater is running.
5. Smoke, chemicals, and other irritants
Many different chemicals and other substances in the environment irritate the throat, including:
any type of smoke, including tobacco smoke
cleaning products and other chemicals
aerosolized sprays, such as air fresheners
Certain types of injury can cause pain in the throat. Getting a piece of food stuck in your throat can also irritate it.
Repeated use strains the vocal cords and muscles in the throat. You can get a sore throat after yelling, talking loudly, or singing for a long period of time. For example, sore throats are a common complaint among fitness instructors and teachers, who often have to yell.
7. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus — the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach.
The acid burns the esophagus and throat, causing symptoms like heartburn and acid reflux — the regurgitation of acid into your throat.
Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), also known as silent reflux, can also cause the acid from the stomach to flow back up into the esophagus or throat, leading to a sore throat.
A tumor of the throat, voice box, or tongue is a less common cause of a sore throat. When a sore throat is a sign of cancer, it doesn’t go away after a few days.
Sore throat risk factors
Though anyone can get a sore throat, there are several factors that can increase your risk.
Some common risk factors include:
Age: Children are more susceptible to certain conditions that can cause a sore throat, including strep throat.
Time of year: Some types of infection are more common during certain seasons, including winter.
Exposure to irritants: Several irritants, such as cigarette smoke or pollution, can cause a sore throat.
Personal hygiene: Infrequent hand washing could increase your risk of infection.
Certain settings: Some settings, such as schools and daycares, can increase the spread of infections that could cause a sore throat.
Vocal strain: People who regularly talk loudly, yell, or sing for long periods can strain their vocal cords more easily, leading to a sore throat.
How to prevent a sore throat
While a sore throat cannot always be avoided, there are several steps you can take to help prevent it.
Some ways you may be able to prevent a sore throat include:
clean your hands regularly
limit close contact with others who have respiratory infections, sore throats, and colds
if you smoke, consider quitting
avoid exposure to secondhand smoke as much as possible
Home remedies for a sore throat
You can treat most sore throats at home. Get plenty of rest to give your immune system a chance to fight the infection.
To relieve the pain of a sore throat:
Gargle with a mixture of warm water and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt.
Drink warm liquids that feel soothing to the throat, such as hot tea with honey, soup broth, or warm water with lemon. Herbal teas can be especially soothing to a sore throat.
Cool your throat by eating a cold treat like a popsicle or ice cream.
Suck on a piece of hard candy or a lozenge.
Turn on a cool mist humidifier to add moisture to the air.
Rest your voice until your throat feels better.
When to see a doctor
Sore throats that are caused by a viral infection usually get better on their own within 7 days. However, some causes of a sore throat need to be treated.
Call a doctor if you have any of these potentially more serious symptoms:
severe sore throat
trouble breathing, or pain when you breathe
difficulty opening your mouth
a fever higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius)
painful or stiff neck
blood in your saliva or phlegm
a sore throat that lasts for more than a week
………Adelekan Oluwaseun Ojo, is a counseling psychologist, and a business & health consultant with Jigsimur Zdex Int’l, a company which is into the production and distribution of Jigsimur herbal health drink, a natural curative and preventive herbal medicine from South Africa.
For personal consultation, you can contact us on 07089225319 or 08035122399