Sore throat

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Overview

Sore throat, is discomfort, pain, or scratchiness in the throat. It often makes it painful to swallow.

 It can hurt just to swallow. Pharyngitis is a big word that basically means sore throat. It's a type of sore throat that's caused by inflammation of the pharynx. Your pharynx is a tube in the back of your throat. It sits between your tonsils and your voice box. When bacteria or viruses get into your throat, they can cause an infection that makes your pharynx swollen, tender, and red. This is called pharyngitis. Often, Group A strep bacteria cause pharyngitis, known as strep throat. The main symptom of pharyngitis is a sore throat, but you may also have other signs of an infection, such as a fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, and swollen glands in your neck. Your doctor will notice that your pharynx is swollen and red when looking at your throat. You may also need a swab called a throat culture to make sure you don't have strep throat. If you do test positive for strep throat, your doctor can prescribe an antibiotic to kill off the bacteria. There's another common type of bacteria that can cause throat infections: Fusobacterium necrophorum. I call it F-throat. Antibiotics are important for F-throat. But pharyngitis that's caused by a virus won't get better with antibiotics. You'll just need to take care of yourself and wait for your body to fight off the infection. To soothe a sore throat, drink warm liquids such as tea with honey or lemon. Gargle a few times a day with warm water mixed with about a half-teaspoon of salt. Sleep with a cool-mist vaporizer to keep your throat moist. Popsicles may be soothing. And suck on cough drops or lozenges. If your throat is really raw, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Sore throats are more common during the winter months, so wash your hands often and try to not be too close to people who are sick. If you do get a sore throat, stay home and rest until you feel better, or at least until there's been no fever for 24 hours. Keep washing your hands often so you don't pass the infection to other people in your family. Pharyngitis should go away in a few days, but if it doesn't, call your doctor. Also call if you have a very high fever, a rash, or swollen glands. Get emergency help right away if you have trouble breathing.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a sore throat can vary depending on the cause. Signs and symptoms might include:

Pain or a scratchy sensation in the throat

Pain that worsens with swallowing or talking

Difficulty swallowing

Sore, swollen glands in your neck or jaw

Swollen, red tonsils

White patches or pus on your tonsils

A hoarse or muffled voice

Infections causing a sore throat might result in other signs and symptoms, including:

Fever

Cough

Runny nose

Sneezing

Body aches

Headache

Nausea or vomiting

Causes

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, the flu, and other viral infections

Sore throat is usually causedTrusted Source by a viral infection. Among the viruses that cause sore throats are:

the common cold

influenza — the flu

COVID-19

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%Trusted Source of sore throat cases in children. Tonsillitis and sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia can also cause a sore throat.

3. Allergies

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 irritateTrusted Source the throat, including:

any type of smoke, including tobacco smoke

air pollution

cleaning products and other chemicals

aerosolized sprays, such as air fresheners

Immediately after September 11, more than 90%Trusted Source of rescue workers reported experiencing an acute cough, with many also reporting upper airway symptoms like sore throat and nasal congestion.

6. Injury

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 complaintTrusted Source 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.

8. Tumor

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.

Risk factors

Though anyone can get a sore throat, there are several factors that can increaseTrusted Source your risk.

Some common risk factors include:

Age: Children are more susceptibleTrusted Source to certain conditions that can cause a sore throat, including strep throat.

Time of year: Some types of infection are more commonTrusted Source 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.

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Complications

Abscesses (pockets of pus) around the tonsils or in the neck.

Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

Sinus infections.

Ear infections.

Rheumatic fever (a disease that can affect the heart, joints, brain, and skin)

Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis (a kidney disease)

Prevention

Rest. Get plenty of sleep. ...

Drink fluids. Fluids keep the throat moist and prevent dehydration. ...

Try comforting foods and beverage. ...

Gargle with saltwater. ...

Humidify the air. ...

Consider lozenges or hard candy. ...

Avoid irritants. ...

Stay at home until you're no longer sick.