Sore Throat

What is a Sore Throat?

When individuals have a sore throat, they feel a soreness and discomfort in their throat, especially when swallowing. Children are at a higher risk for developing a sore throat as well as individuals who have allergies or a weakened immune system.

Common causes of a sore throat include bacterial infections, such as strep throat or whooping cough, and viral infections, such as mononucleosis and measles. Environmental factors, such as allergic reactions to pet dander or pollen, and smoking cigarettes, can trigger sore throat pain. A digestive disorder called gastroesophageal reflux disease, in which stomach acid backs up into a person’s esophagus, can also cause a sore throat.

What are the Symptoms of Sore Throat?

In addition to pain, some individuals also experience dryness or scratchiness in their throat. Talking and coughing can be difficult and these actions can worsen the pain. Individuals who have sore throat symptoms when they have an infection may also have a fever, cough, earache, nasal congestion and body aches.

When opening their mouth and looking into a mirror, individuals may notice their throat appears red and their tonsils may look enlarged. It is also common for individuals to see white areas on their tonsils in the back of their throat. When talking, individuals may sound hoarse when they have a sore throat.

Sore Throat Causes

A sore throat can be caused by a number of different things, such as the flu, measles, Mononucleosis (mono), the common cold, Croup, and chickenpox. Bacterial infections like streptococcus pyogenes can also cause a sore throat (or strep throat). Other causes include an HIV infection, muscle strain, allergies, tumors, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or environmental and/or chemical irritants.

Sore throats can develop more frequently if you have certain risk factors. Frequent sinus infections, exposure to chemical irritants, and weakened immunity can all cause sore throats. They are more likely to occur in children and teenagers. Smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke (secondhand smoke) can cause irritation in the throat, which leads to soreness.

Allergies to dust, pets, or mold all make getting a sore throat more likely. Environmental irritants like household cleaning products can be culprits of a sore throat, especially if exposure is long-term. If you live in close proximity with someone (share a room or close living quarters) who has a viral or bacterial infection you’re likely to catch whatever they have and develop a sore throat.

How is a Sore Throat Treated?

Many treatments for a sore throat can be done at home to reduce the symptoms associated with this condition. Individuals can mix salt with warm water and gargle this solution to ease sore throat pain. Drinking warm beverages can also decrease the soreness as well as sucking on a throat drop.

People who have a sore throat should avoid things that irritate the throat, such as inhaling smoke and other irritants. Individuals can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve irritation of the throat. When individuals have a sore throat that is caused by a bacterial infection, a physician can prescribe antibiotics.

Sore Throat Prevention

Some things you can try to prevent a sore throat include drinking plenty of fluids, humidifying the air, gargling with salt water, and resting your voice. You can also try warm liquids (like tea, coffee or broth) and cough drops (or lozenges). Children under age 4 shouldn’t be given anything small enough for them to choke on.

When using a humidifier, use a cool-air versus a warm-air humidifier. Alternately, you could run the hot water in your shower until steam forms. Then, sit in the bathroom and inhale the steam. This will loosen up any mucus you may have in your throat causing the soreness. You only need to sit in there for a few minutes for the steam to take effect.