Sore throat is one common type of throat infections. Sore throat is a painful and discomfort feeling in the throat or pharynx. Dryness, scratchiness, swallowing problems and persistent irritation are some common symptoms of sore throat.
Study shows pain in the throat can affect anyone including children. Almost everyone will have it once in a lifetime.
Most sore throats are caused by bacterial and viral infections(infectious diseases) and some environmental conditions like dry air, smoke or chemical fumes. Research shows some early stage head and neck cancer may show symptoms of throat soreness.
Sore throat can clear on its own despite its severity. Although sore throat can be very uncomfortable you don’t need to worry so much about it. Meanwhile, symptoms like swollen neck, lips, eyes and mouth and shortness of breath need immediate medical help.
What are the types?
- Sore throats are divided into types, depending on the part of the throat it affect.
- Laryngitis is swelling and redness of the voice box, or larynx.
- Tonsillitis is the type of sore throat where the tonsils become red. Tonsils are the soft tissue located in the back of the mouth.
- Pharyngitis affects the area right behind the mouth
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of sore throat varies depending on the causes, disorder or conditions and the severity. The following symptoms are very common among patients who have sore throats;
- scratchiness in the throat
- feeling of itchiness or tickling in the throat
- change in voice known as hoarseness
- dry throat
- tender and swollen lymph
- persistent irritation
- swallowing problems
- pain when talking or sneezing
- the throat or tonsil may become red
- One common symptom in Strep throat do rarely occurs in sore throats which is white patches appears on the throat in some patients. Strep throats are usually caused by virus while sore throats by bacteria.
Sore throats like any other infectious disease may show other symptoms. Depending on the type and cause of your sore throat, you may experience the following symptoms along with your sore throat;
- nasal congestion or mucus discharge
- runny nose
- cough and sneezing
- fever and chills
- general body aches and pain
- headache or malaise
- appetite loss
- nausea and vomiting
- watery eyes, itchy eyes
- eye redness
- itching of the nose or ears
What are the risk factors
Sore throats are caused by a wide range of factors including infections, injuries, health conditions, and some environmental factors. Below are Eight most common sore throat causes.
1. Viral infections
Viruses are the most causative agents for sore throat. Virus is responsible for invading the throat, nasal areas and the mouth causing numerous infections. Research shows that, about 90% of sore throats are caused by virus. The following viral infections include;
- the common cold
- influenza — the flu
- HIV : Human immunodeficiency virus transmissible through sexual intercourse and oral sex
- Oral herpes a sexually transmitted disease caused by virus can cause sore throat.
- mononucleosis is an infection that can be spread through saliva
- mumps, an infection that causes swelling of the salivary glands in the neck
- measles, an illness that causes a rash and fever
- chickenpox, a viral disease that causes a fever and an itchy, bumpy rash
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 40% of sore throat cases in children. Tonsillitis, and sexually transmitted infections like Gonorrhea and Chlamydia can also cause a sore throat.
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 irritate the throat, including:
cigarette and other tobacco smoke
cleaning products and other chemicals
Any injury, such as a hit or cut to the neck, 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. Sore throats are a common complaint among 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 which causes symptoms like heartburn and acid reflux. Acid reflux is the regurgitation of acid into your throat.
A tumor of the throat, voice box, or tongue is however a less common cause of any form of throat infection. You will be able to detect a normal sore throat caused by virus and that of cancer tumor by how long it lasts. Normal sore throats last within three to seven days. While that caused by cancer may last longer.
Your doctor or health provider will perform some physical exams to detect if you have a the infection or any other throat infections by
Using a lighted instrument to look at the throat, and including the ears and nasal passages
Gently feeling the neck to check for swollen glands (lymph nodes)
Listening to your or your breathing with a stethoscope
In most cases of throat infection diagnosis, doctors use a simple test to detect the presence of streptococcal bacteria, the bacteria responsible for causing strep throat.
The doctor rubs a special or sterile swab over the back of the throat to get a sample of secretions for lab for testing. For a rapid antigen tests, result can come within a few minutes in some health centers but another reliable test known as a throat culture, can return lab results with 24 to 48 hours.
In some cases, doctors may use a molecular test to detect streptococcal bacteria. In this test, a doctor swipes a sterile swab over the back of the throat to get a sample of secretions. The sample is tested in a lab and your health provider gets accurate results within a few minutes.
You might need more tests to figure out or confirm the cause of your sore throat. You can see a specialist who treats diseases of the throat, called an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor or otolaryngologist.
health professionals diagnose strep throat based on symptoms, an exam of the throat, and a strep test. For a sore throat without an obvious diagnosis, you might need to see a specialist who treats conditions of the ears, nose, and throat.
A sore throat caused by a viral infection usually lasts five to seven days and doesn’t usually require medical treatment. Antibiotics don’t help treat a viral infection.
To ease pain and fever, many people turn to acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or other mild pain relievers.
Consider giving your child over-the-counter pain medications designed for infants or children, such as acetaminophen (Children’s Tylenol, FeverAll, others) or ibuprofen (Children’s Advil, Children’s Motrin, others), to ease symptoms.
Never give aspirin to children or teenagers as it can cause serious health condition known as Reye’s Syndrome: a condition that causes swelling in the liver and brain.
How can you treat bacterial infections of the throat
If your sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, your health provider or doctor will prescribe antibiotics.
You must take the full course of antibiotics as prescribed even if the symptoms are gone. Failure to take all of the medication as directed can result in the infection worsening or spreading to other parts of the body.
If a sore throat is a symptom of a condition other than a viral or bacterial infection, other treatments will likely be considered depending on the diagnosis.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Certain lifestyles and home remedies can actually help relieve sore throats.
- Rest and get plenty of sleep. Avoid stress and try to rest your voice as well.
- Drink enough water and other fluids. Fluids keep the throat moist and prevent dehydration. Try to avoid alcohol and caffeine as they can dehydrate you.
- Gargle with saltwater. Salt warm water can help soothe a sore throat. Children older than 6 and adults can gargle the solution and then spit it out.
- Humidify the air. Use a cool-air humidifier to eliminate dry air that may further irritate a sore throat, being sure to clean the humidifier regularly so it doesn’t grow mold or bacteria. You can sit for several minutes in a steamy bathroom or used steamed face towels to cover your face.
- Consider lozenges or hard candy. Either can soothe a sore throat, but don’t give them to children age 4 and younger due to choking risk.
- Avoid irritants. Keep your home free from cigarette smoke and cleaning products that can irritate the throat.
- Stay at home until you’re no longer sick. This can help protect others from catching a cold or other virus.
- Avoid smoking or be around where smoke and other chemical fumes are.
Other Home remedies are proved to be effective to reducing sore throats. The use of honey, soda water, ginger and warm water can help soothe pain in the throat.
Symptoms of sore throats or any throat infections may clear on its own in short period of time, however these symptoms may a serious health implications. It is best to report any symptoms of the throat to your health provider if you or anyone has the following symptoms bellow accompanied by the normal throat symptoms. Call your doctor if you have any of these potentially more serious symptoms:
- severe sore throat
- trouble swallowing
- trouble breathing, or pain when you breathe
- difficulty opening your mouth
- sore joints
- sever or high temperature
- painful or stiff neck
- severe or chronic ear pain
- presence of blood in your saliva or phlegm
- a sore throat that lasts for more than a week
- shortness of breath
- swollen lips, eyes, mouth and face
Information provided here are for educational purpose only and must not be substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or healthcare provider if you are seeking medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. Monuji does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.