A sore throat is a condition affecting the throat and resulting in irritation, scratchiness or pain in the throat. The abnormality usually tends to aggravate while swallowing food or drinks.
A sore throat is considered as one of the most regular symptoms of a disorder called pharyngitis, i.e. swelling of the pharynx or throat. Doctors tend to use both pharyngitis and sore throat to elucidate the condition.
Most of the cases of a sore throat are generally caused due to viral infections like a cold or flu. A majority of sore throat cases caused due to viral infections are easily resolved by home and self care remedies. In rare cases, a sore throat is caused by bacterial infections, which may need to be treated by a doctor.
Sore throat symptoms
Depending on the causes, the signs and symptoms vary and may be experienced in the following ways:
- Elevated pain or scratchiness of the throat may be observed
- Swallowing or speaking may worsen the pain
- There may be swallowing difficulties
- Excessive dryness of the throat
- The organs occurring in the neck or jaw may elicit soreness or swelling
- The tonsils experience swelling or redness
- Development of whitish blotches or pus in the tonsils
- Increased hoarseness or muffling of the voice
- Infants and toddlers affected by a sore throat may decline to eat
A few other symptoms accompanying a sore throat are listed below:
- Fever and chills
- Vomiting or nausea
- Running nose
- Body aches
Causes of a sore throat
Sore throat is commonly caused due to infection by viruses that lead to development of the common cold or flu. In rare instances, a sore throat may be caused due to bacterial infections.
- A few viral illnesses that lead to a sore throat are listed below:
- The common cold
- Influenza or the flu
- Croup, a widespread ailment affecting children and featuring a sharp, barking cough
- A few types of infections by bacteria that result in a sore throat are listed below:
- Strep throat caused due to infection by a bacterium known as group A streptococcus, or as Streptococcus pyogenes
- Whooping cough, a highly contagious disease affecting the respiratory system
- Diphtheria, which is also a serious ailment affecting the respiratory system and commonly found to be more prevalent in developing nations as opposed to developed countries.
- The other causes of sore throat are discussed below:
- People who are allergic to different allergens such as pet dander, molds, dust, pollen, etc. can get affected by a sore throat when they get exposed to them. The occurrence of a postnasal drip can result in complications and lead to irritation and swelling of the sore throat
- Excessive dryness of the air, often during winters when there is artificial heating of the buildings, can elevate the scratchiness and roughness in the throat. This is more so in the mornings after waking up. Breathing via the mouth, particularly during times of a clogged nasal passage can lead to a dry and sore throat
- A sore throat may also result from exposure to indoor irritants like chemical fumes and tobacco smoke; outdoor irritants like polluted air; and because of different activities like increased intake of spicy foods and alcohol, as well as chewing tobacco
- The muscles occurring in the throat can become increasingly tense after taking for prolonged durations without rest; or by loudly shouting at a sports event; or by making an effort to talk loudly in a noisy area. Such muscle tension can elevate the hoarseness in the throat and result in a sore throat
- Individuals affected by GERD, a gastrointestinal condition, can experience cases of a sore throat in addition to other symptoms like hoarseness, heartburn and regurgitation
- HIV infected individuals are more prone to develop flu-like symptoms along with a sore throat in the early stages. Such people are also more susceptible to getting affected by chronic and recurrent cases of a sore throat due to secondary infections.
- The growth of malignant tumors on the tongue, in the larynx or the throat can also lead to development of a sore throat. These tumors may cause additional symptoms such as hoarseness, occurrence of a lump in the threat, presence of blood in saliva, noisy breathing and swallowing problems
Treatment of a sore throat
- A sore throat caused due to infections by viruses, usually does not need medical attention and tends to fade away on its own within five to seven days
- Antibiotics therapy is recommended to treat a sore throat caused due to infections by bacteria
- A sore throat caused due to other reasons are treated as per the relevant diagnosis of the condition
- Home care remedies for a sore throat involve intake of extra liquids, lots of rest, alleviation of irritation via lozenges consumption, avoidance of allergens and irritants, humidifying the air and consumption of over the counter painkiller drugs for easing pain.
Sore throat pictures