Do you have a sore throat as a result of allergens in the atmosphere, common cold, or flu?
A sore throat is a pain, scratchiness, or irritation of your throat that may worsen when you swallow.
One of the most common causes of sore throat or pharyngitis is a viral infection like a clod or flu.
Moreover, if it is due to a viral infection (a virus) it often resolves on its own.
Pain in the throat is one of the common signs and symptoms, and it accounts for more than 13 million visits to doctors each year.
It is often due to infections, or by environmental factors like dry air.
Although it can be uncomfortable but goes away on its own.
Many doctors divide sore throat into 3 types and it depends on the part of the throat it affects.
Pharyngitis: It affects the area right behind your mouth
Tonsilitis: is the swelling and redness of your tonsils, the soft tissue in the back of your mouth
Laryngitis: swelling and redness of the voice box or larynx.
Let’s learn in detail about a sore throat.
Sore Throat Symptoms
Depending on the causes of sore throat, its signs and symptoms can vary. A sore throat often feels like:
Scratchy, burning, ray, dry, tender or irritated throat.
Moreover, it may hurt more when you swallow or talk and your throat or tonsils may also look red.
In some cases, white patches or areas of pus will form on your tonsils. However, these white patches are more common in strep throat than in sore throat caused by a virus.
Along with sore throat, you will also experience symptoms like:
Nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, cough, fever, chills, swollen glands in the neck, and hoarse voice.
Moreover, you might also experience body aches, headaches, trouble swallowing, or appetite loss.
Learn more about Sinus Infection and toothache here.
Causes of Sore Throat
There are 8 causes of sore throat and it ranges from infections to injuries.
The following are the most common causes of sore throat:
Colds, Flu, or Viral Infections
According to research, viruses causes more than 90% of sore throat and among the virus that causes sore throat are:
Moreover, chickenpox, an infection that causes a fever and an itchy or bumpy rash and mumps, an infection that causes swelling of salivary glands in the neck.
Strep Throat or Bacterial Infections
Bacterial infections can also cause sore throat, and the most common one is Strep Throat.
Strep Throat is an infection of the throat and tonsils and is due to group A Streptococcus bacteria.
Moreover, it causes almost 40% of sore throat cases in children.
Tonsils and sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia can also cause sore throats.
When your immune system reacts to an allergy trigger as pollen, grass, or pet danders, it releases chemicals that can cause symptoms like nasal congestion, watery eyes, sneezing, and throat irritation.
Excess mucus in the nose can drip down the back of your throat and is Postnasal Drip. This can irritate your throat as well.
Dry air sucks the moisture from the mouth and throat and leaves your throat feeling dry and scratchy.
The air is mostly dry in winter when the heater is running in your room.
Smoke, Chemicals, and Other Irritants
Different chemicals and other substances in the environment can irritate your throat. These include:
Cigarette and other tobacco products, air pollution, cleaning agents, and other chemicals.
After September, 11 more than 62% of the firefighters reported frequent sore throat.
However, only 3.2% had some before the World Trade Center Disaster.
Learn more about Smoking and Oral Health here.
Other Causes of Sore Throat
Other potential causes of sore throat are as follows:
Any injury, like a hit or cut to the neck, can cause pain in your neck or throat. Moreover, getting a food particle stuck in your throat can also irritate it.
When you repeatedly strain your vocal cords and the muscles in your throat, you can also get a sore throat.
Yelling, talking loudly, or singing for a long period of time can also cause it.
Moreover, it is also a common complaint among fitness instructors and teachers who have to yell often.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Diseases, GERD
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, GERD, is a condition in which acid from your stomach backs up into the esophagus.
The esophagus is a tube that carries food from your mouth to the stomach.
This acid burns your esophagus and the throat, causing symptoms like heartburn and acid reflux, the regurgitation of acid into the throat.
A tumor of the throat, voice box, or tongue is a less common cause of sore throat.
However, when a sore throat is a sign of cancer, it will not go away after a few days.
Learn more about Acid Reflux and its Effects on Teeth here.
Home Remedies for Sore Throat
You can easily treat a sore throat at home.
Getting enough rest to give your immune system a chance to fight the infection is one remedy.
Moreover, to relieve the pain of a sore throat you can:
Gargle with a mixture of warm water and 1/2 to 1 tsp. pf salt, drink plenty of water or liquids that feels soothing to your throat.
These liquids can be tea with honey, soup broth, or warm water with lemon.
Moreover, herbal teas are especially soothing to your throat according to different studies.
You can cool your throat by eating a cold treat like a popsicle or ice cream, suck on a piece of hard candy, or lozenge.
You can also turn on a cool-mist humidifier to add moisture to the air or rest your voice until your throat feels better.
Visiting your Doctor
If you have a sore throat due to a viral infection, it will resolve on its own after 2 to 7 days, yet some causes need treatment by the doctors.
Call your doctor if you have any of the following more serious symptoms:
Severe sore throat, trouble swallowing, trouble breathing or pain while your breath, or difficulty opening your mouth.
Diagnosis of Sore Throat
If your sore throat does not go away and you notice the above signs and symptoms, then you should visit your doctor.
Your doctor, during the examination, will ask about the signs and symptoms and will use a light to check the back of your throat.
This will help them check for redness, swelling, and white spots.
Moreover, your doctor will also feel the sides of your neck to see if you have any swollen glands.
However, if they suspect strep throat, you will get a throat culture.
During this, your doctor will swab over the back of your throat and collect a sample to test for strep throat.
With a rapid strep test, they will get the results within minutes.
To confirm the diagnosis, they will also send the sample to test under a microscope. A lab test will take a day or two, but will definitely show that you have strep throat.
In some cases, you might need more tests to figure out the cause of your condition.
You can see a specialist who treats diseases of the throat, an ear, nose, and throat, an ENT doctor, or an otolaryngologist.
Your doctor will advise you to take medications to relieve the pain of a sore throat or to treat its underlying causes.
Certain over-the-counter medications or OTC meds that can help relieve a sore throat are:
Acetaminophen, or Tylenol, ibuprofen, Advil or Motrin or Aspirin.
However, it is important to note that you should not give aspirin to children and teenagers as it is linked to a rare but serious condition called Reye’s Syndrome.
However, you can also use one or more of these treatments which will work directly on the pain of your sore throat.
A sore throat spray that contains a numbing antiseptic like phenol or a cooling ingredient like menthol or eucalyptus.
You can also use throat lozenges and cough syrup to treat it.
Other Treatment Options
You can also use some other treatment options to get rid of your sore throat.
Some herbs including slippery elm, marshmallow root, and licorice root are sold as remedies.
However, there is not much evidence whether it works effectively or not, but herbal tea, Throat Coat that contains all 3 relieve pain according to a study.
Moreover, medications that help to relieve or reduce stomach acid can help sore throat sure to GERD.
These are as follows:
Antacids, like Tums, Rolaids, Mylanta to neutralize stomach acid.
H2 Blockers, like cimetidine, famotidine, reduce stomach acid production.
Proton Pum Inhabitors, PPIs like lansoprazole, omeprazole block the production of acid.
Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics if you have an infection due to bacteria like strep throat, however, they will not treat a viral infection.
Most often doctors prescribe a course of antibiotics that lasts about 10 days.
However, it is important to take all your medications in the bottle, even when you start to feel better.
This is because stopping an antibiotic too early can leave some bacteria alive and can make you sick again.
Both viral and bacterial infections as well as irritants and other allergens can cause the majority of sore throats. However, most of them will get better in a few days without any treatment. It is common in young children, children younger than 5 years of age and to soothe a sore throat you can use lozenges, or use OTC medications.
Taking enough rest, warm liquids, saltwater gargles, and OTC medications can help relieve the pain and soothe your throat at home. However, for strep throat, you will need to seek medical advice and medications from the doctor.
They will do a swab test to find out whether you have strep throat or not, and consult your doctor if you experience symptoms like trouble breathing or swallowing a high fever, or a stiff neck.