Sore throat is a condition which causes pain, scratchiness, dryness in the throat. This problem usually intensifies upon swallowing of food or liquid. The most common cause of sore throat is a viral infection but usually, the condition resolves on its own.
But in cases, where the sore throat, specifically streptococcal infection, occurs because of bacteria, the condition may require medications such as antibiotics. However, other forms of sore throat may require more intense treatment depending on the cause.
Symptoms of sore throat
Symptoms of sore throat depend on the cause of the problem. However, some common signs of the condition include:
- Pain or dryness in the throat
- A scratchy feeling in the throat
- Problem in swallowing
- Soreness or swelling in the neck or jaw
- Swelling or redness in the tonsils
- White patches or pus formations on the tonsils
- Hoarse or barely audible voice
However, the underlying problem of sore throat can also tend to show some symptoms, such as:
- Runny nose
- Body pain
Also, in children, if the sore throat does not go away on its own soon, the parents should get immediate medical care in case there are other symptoms, such as:
- Problem in breathing
- An issue in swallowing food or liquid
- Abnormal drooling
Moreover, if an adult experiences sore throat with the below symptoms, immediate medical attention must be sought.
- Problem in breathing
- Issue in swallowing
- A sore throat that lasts more than a week
- Pain in the joints
- A problem in opening the mouth
- Blood in the saliva
- Formation of a lump in the neck
- Swollen neck or face
- High fever
- Ear pain
- Hoarse voice, which does not improve for more than a week
Causes of sore throat
The most common cause of sore throat is the virus such as cold and flu. But in some conditions, bacterial infections can also lead to a sore throat.
Viral infections such as colds, measles, chickenpox, COVID-19, influenza, mono, croup, etc. can cause sore throat. Moreover, bacterial infections such as Streptococcus pyogenes can also lead to a sore throat.
That said, some other causes of the problem include:
- Allergies to dust, molds, pet dander, etc.
- Dryness because of mouth breathing
- Irritants including tobacco smoke, chemicals, etc.
- Muscle strain because of excessive yelling, talking, etc.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- HIV infection
Risk factors of sore throat
A sore throat is a very common condition and can impact people of all ages. However, some people may be more prone to the problem than others. These include:
- Children between 3-15 years of age
- People who are more exposed to tobacco or similar type of smoke
- People that have existing allergies to molds, dust, etc.
- People that are highly exposed to chemical irritants
- Individuals that get serious or frequent sinus infections
- People that have a weak immune system
Prevention of sore throat
The best way to prevent sore throat is to maintain good hygiene and avoid germs by:
- Washing hands regularly
- Avoiding sharing of food
- Coughing or sneezing
- Using alcohol-based sanitizers
- Limiting touching public places and common surfaces
- Regularly cleaning all devices such as telephones, TV, etc.
- Avoiding close contact with ill people
Diagnosis of sore throat
To assess a sore throat, the doctor will foremost conduct a physical exam that can include:
- A lighted instrument, which is used to look inside the throat, ears and nasal passages.
- Softly checking the neck to detect the presence of any swollen glands
- Listening to the breathing
In many cases, the doctors conduct a throat swab test to check for sore throat. The doctor uses a sterile swab and rubs it over the back of the throat to obtain a sample of secretions. This sample is then sent to the lab to get the results.
Treatment of sore throat
A sore throat which is generally caused due to a bacterial infection does not harm and typically goes away in a maximum of 7 days, without any medical care. However, to reduce pain and fever, the doctor might suggest some pain relievers or fever medications.
In case, the strep throat is caused because of bacterial infection, the doctor will suggest antibiotics. The full course of antibiotics should be taken, even when the symptoms get over sooner. In case, the medications are not taken properly, the sore throat infection can worsen or spread to other body parts.
Moreover, non-completion of the antibiotic course for sore throat can lead to rheumatic fever in children or even kidney inflammation.
That said, some lifestyle and home remedies that can help improve the sore throat issue include:
- Getting plenty of rest and sleeping well
- Drinking more fluids
- Opting for more warm liquids and foods such as tea, ice pops, etc.
- Gargling with saltwater
- Using a cool-air humidifier to remove the air, which can potentially lead to a sore throat
- Avoiding irritants such as tobacco smoke, cleaning agents, etc.
Overall, sore throat can easily be prevented and treated after diagnosis. However, regular check-ups can help ensure the infection is monitored and prevented.