Sore Throat: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Overview

A sore throat is a painful, dry, or scratchy feeling in the throat. The most common cause of a sore throat is a viral infection, such as a cold or flu. Pain in the throat is the most common symptom. It is one of the most common health condition particularly during the colder months of the year. It can be treated successfully at home but it can also cause more serious conditions.

A sore throat accounts for more than 13 million visits to doctor’s offices each year.

Causes

There are several different causes of sore throats. Of them, infections by contagious viruses or bacteria are the source cause of most sore throats.

  • Viruses. Viral illnesses that cause a sore throat include the flu, colds, measles, chicken pox, whooping cough, croup, or mononucleosis.
  • Bacterial infection. A number of bacterial infections can cause a sore throat. The most common one is group A streptococcus which is a cause of strep throat. It can trigger serious symptoms such as scarlet fever, tonsillitis, pneumonia, sinusitis, and ear infections.

Besides, there are also some other causes of a sore throat:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It is a digestive system disorder in which stomach acids back up in the food pipe.
  • Allergies. Allergies to pollens, molds, animal dander, or house dust can also lead to a sore throat.
  • Irritation. Dry heat, dehydration, chronic stuffy nose, pollutants, car exhaust or chemical exposure can lead to a sore throat.
  • Tumors. Cancerous tumors of the throat, tongue, and larynx can cause a sore throat with pain in the ear.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a sore throat vary depending on the cause. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain or a scratchy feeling in the throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A hoarse or muffled voice
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Swollen, red tonsils
  • White patches or pus on the tonsils
  • A hoarse or muffled voice
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting

Diagnosis

To make a diagnosis, the doctor will start with a physical examination by using a lighted instrument to look at the patient’s throat, ears and nasal passages as well as feeling the neck to check for swollen glands.

If the doctor suspects you have strep throat, a rapid strep test is often ordered. The doctor rubs a sterile swab over the back of the throat to get a sample of secretions and sends the sample to a lab for testing. It takes only minutes for the results.

A second, often more reliable test, called a throat culture, is used for definitive evaluation of strep throat if the rapid strep test is negative. Usually, the results of the culture are available within 24 to 48 hours.

Treatment

The treatment for a sore throat varies depending on the causes.

A sore throat caused by a viral infection usually lasts five to seven days and does not require medical treatment. To ease pain and fever, the doctor may recommend acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin or other mild pain relievers. Don’t give aspirin to children and teenagers, since it may be linked to a rare but serious condition called Reye’s syndrome. Besides, some herbs, including slippery elm, marshmallow root, and licorice root, are some sore throat remedies.

If your sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics can help reduce sore throat pain and lower the risk of rheumatic fever. Doctors usually prescribe a course of antibiotics lasting about 10 days. It is important to take all of the medication to prevent recurrence.


Keywords: Sore throat.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.