Sore Throat 101: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Health and Nutrition
9.01.2020

Sore throat is a very commonly seen ailment in which your throat feels, raw, irritated and scratchy. You may also have pain while swallowing. Unless it is strep throat where it is because of bacterial infection you do not need antibiotics and the problem usually resolves in a few days (1, 2, 3).

Strep throat where the infection is caused by streptococcus bacteria you will need treatment with antibiotics to avoid any complications. Streptococcal infection is not common. There are other reasons for sore throat which are also not very common and those require medical treatment.

Most of the time sore throat may be because of something simple like cold and you may not have to go to a doctor. But the scratchiness in the throat and pain while swallowing may be troublesome and there are few things you can do to feel better (4).

Symptoms

The symptoms may vary from person to person and also based on the cause of the sore throat. Some of the symptoms commonly seen are

  • dry and scratchy feeling in the throat.
  • It may hurt while swallowing or talking.
  • difficulty while eating because of the pain in the throat.
  • hoarse or muffled voice
  • runny nose
  • cough
  • swollen tonsils

 

Causes

A common cause of sore throat is a viral infection. Bacterial infection also causes sore throat but it is not common.

  • Viral infections that may result in sore throat are cold and flu.
  • Bacterial infections such as streptococcal infections may also cause a sore throat.
  • Allergies to various substances may result in a sore throat.
  • Acid reflux also causes a sore throat.
  • Dry environment also can result in a sore throat.
  • Smoking or being in a smoke-filled environment, living or working in a polluted area where air is filled with pollutants may also cause a sore throat.

 

Treatment

The doctor does a physical examination and can decide if it is a bacterial or viral infection. If the doctor suspects bacterial infection a test may be conducted to confirm it. If it is bacterial infection antibiotics are given.

If it is a viral infection it will resolve in a week.  There is no need for antibiotics as they will not work on viral infections and actually will cause side effects.

For easing the discomfort of a sore throat till it is resolved certain natural remedies may help.

 

Here are some natural remedies for a sore throat (2, 3, 4)

  1. Drink lots of fluids to keep your throat moist. Throat aches more early in the morning because it becomes dry in the night and that makes it more scratchy.
  2. Take hot tea with lemon, soup etc. These fluids will soothe your throat.
  3. You can suck on lozenges or hard candy to keep your throat moist. Children may have choking issues with these so avoid for them.
  4. You can suck on ice cubes or popsicles to feel better.
  5. Take honey with your tea or lemon juice, it helps in soothing and healing the throat as honey has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  6. Keep a humidifier in the room to keep the air from becoming too dry especially in the night while sleeping.
  7. Gargle with warm salt water, it will soothe the throat. Children may not be able to gargle.
  8. Sip on warm water it soothes the raw throat.
  9. Eat cool and soft foods.
  10. Do not eat spicy or hard food, it will irritate the throat further.
  11. Avoid smoking or being with someone who is smoking. It will irritate your throat.
  12. Take plenty of rest.

Sometimes acid reflux also causes irritation and pain in the throat. The acidic stomach contents travel up and cause discomfort. These may help a sore throat caused by acid reflux.

  1. Eat small and frequent meals and do not eat large meals.
  2. Do not go to bed immediately after eat food. Eat at least 2 or 3 hour before sleeping.
  3. Sleep with your head at an elevated level by raising the bed on the head side.

 

Final word

If sore throat persists for more than a week or if it is accompanied by fever or it is very painful or there is difficulty in breathing or you are unable to swallow while eating, you need a doctor to take a look at you. It may not be a simple sore throat there may be an underlying cause which needs to be cured.

 

References

  1. Mayo Clinic (2017). Sore Throat.
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sore-throat/symptoms-causes/syc-20351635
  1. National Health Services (2018). Sore Throat.
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sore-throat/
  1. Centers for Disease Control and prevention (2019). Sore Throat.
    https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/sore-throat.html
  1. National Institutes of Health (2013). Soothing a Sore Throat
    https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/03/soothing-sore-throat

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