A sore throat is a health complaint that is common among the populace. This is particularly true during the colder months of the year when respiratory diseases are at their peak. Painful swallowing is common, and people of all ages may experience it every now and then.
When you experience difficulty swallowing along with pain, it is generally a symptom of an infection. It can also be a symptom of an allergic reaction and has many possible causes.
The most common cause of a sore throat is a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu. This type of infection normally resolves on its own.
Other causes of a sore throat like strep throat, which is a less common type of a sore throat that is caused by bacteria, might require more complex treatment if you want to prevent complications.
Possible Conditions That Might Cause Pain On Swallowing
- Strep Throat: Strep throat is a bacterial infection that is caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria, and causes inflammation and pain in the throat.
- Tonsillitis: Tonsillitis is a common childhood ailment that is most often diagnosed in children. However, it can still occur at any age.
- Acid Reflux and Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): this happens when stomach contents flow up from the stomach back into the esophagus. It can result in symptoms like heartburn, stomach pain, and burping.
- Esophagitis: this is simply the inflammation of the esophagus. Its symptoms include a sore throat or heartburn.
- Oral Thrush: this is an infection caused by the Candida albicans fungus, and is also known as oral candidiasis, oropharyngeal candidiasis, or thrush.
- A sore Throat: This is usually a common symptom caused by infections or environmental factors.
- Esophageal cancer: this can occur when a malignant tumor forms in the lining of the muscular tube that’s responsible for moving food from the throat to the stomach.
- Herpes Esophagitis: this condition is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). It can result in some chest pain and difficulty swallowing.
- Diphtheria: Diphtheria is a bacterial infection. It usually affects the throat and nose.
- Temporal Arteritis: This condition occurs when the temporal arteries, which supply blood to the head and brain, become inflamed and irritated, which may lead to damage.
Symptoms Of A Sore Throat
Symptoms of a sore throat can vary depending on the cause of a sore throat, but they might include:
- Pain or an irritating sensation in the throat
- Hoarse or muffled voice
- Pain that increases with swallowing or talking
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sore, swollen glands in your neck or jaw
- Swollen, reddened tonsils
- White patches or pus on your tonsils
Common infections causing a sore throat might result in other signs and symptoms, like:
- A headache
- Nausea or vomiting
- A cough
- A runny nose
- Aches all over your body
Causes of Sore Throat
Some types of sore throat can be caused by microbes like Viruses that cause the common cold and flu (influenza). Less often, bacterial infections cause sore throats too.
Viral infections that cause a sore throat include Common cold, flu (influenza), mononucleosis (mono), measles, chickenpox, and Croup, which is a common childhood illness characterized by a harsh, barking cough.
A number of bacterial infections can cause a sore throat too, with the most common being Streptococcus pyogenes, or group A streptococcus, which causes strep throat.
Other causes of a sore throat include:
- Allergies: may include Allergies to pet dander, molds, dust and pollen, etc can cause a sore throat.
- Postnasal drip: postnasal drip can irritate and inflame the throat.
- Dry air can make your throat feel rough and scratchy, particularly in the morning when you wake up.
- Nasal congestion that forces one to breathe through the mouth can cause a dry, sore throat.
- Irritants or outdoor air pollution can cause throat irritation, while indoor pollution like tobacco smoke or chemicals can also cause a chronic sore throat. Similarly, eating tobacco or spicy foods, and drinking alcohol also can irritate your throat.
- Muscle strain of the throat by yelling, such as at a sporting event; talking loudly; or talking for long periods without rest can cause a sore throat.
- HIV infection might come with a chronic or a recurring sore throat due to a secondary infection, such as a fungal infection called oral thrush and cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection. These types of viral infection can be serious in people with compromised immune systems. These infections can occur in anyone, but they’re more likely to cause a sore throat and other symptoms in people with weakened immune systems.
Anyone can get a sore throat, however, some factors make some people more susceptible to the infection. Such factors include:
- Age: Children are most likely to develop sore throats than adults, in that order
- Exposure to tobacco: Smoking and smoke can irritate the throat. The use of tobacco products also increases the risk of cancers of the throat and voice box.
- Seasonal allergies or allergic reactions to environmental factors like dust, molds or pet increases your chances of developing a sore throat.
- Exposure to chemical irritants in the air from burning fossil fuels and common household chemicals can cause throat irritation.
- Chronic or frequent sinus infections can irritate your throat or spread infection.
- You’re more susceptible to infections in general if you have weakened immunity and your resistance is low.
Sore Throat Remedies and Treatment
Sore throats are often rough, and after all, if you’re suffering, there’s nothing wrong with a touch of relief. Honey, warm tea, and cough drops will all calm the throat irritation and inflammation.
It is not uncommon for us all to experience an occasional sore throat, and when this happens, it can be difficult to determine whether this is a sore throat that needs medical attention or if we can treat it ourselves with home remedies.
Being prepared and in the know about your body’s reactions is a good step towards feeling better, but there are some other things you should know.
Most sore throats are caused by viruses, and that means antibiotics, and drugs used to treat bacterial infections, may not help you or your child get better any faster.
To avoid getting that raw, scratchy, burning feeling at the back of your throat, you should stop smoking, and as for nonsmokers, you should avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
Also, take steps to steer clear of colds and the flu, which often bring on sore throats.
Prevention of Sore Throat
It’s important to always keep in mind some simple steps towards preventing, catching and spreading the sore throat.
- A cough or sneeze into a tissue to cover your mouth, and wash your hands as frequently as possible, especially after coughing, sneezing or coming into contact with someone else who is ill.
- Have hand sanitizer available at work, in your car or in your purse, and if you have been diagnosed with Strep, stay home until you have completed a day of antibiotics treatment.
- Stay away from those that square measure sick, and wash your hands usually.
- Don’t share food, drink, or utensils, and keep your hands away from your eyes, mouth, and face.
- Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of rest, and drink lots of fluids.
- The CDC recommends that everyone from 6 months and above get a flu vaccine every year
Sore throats are uncomfortable and wholly inconvenient, but there are some things that you can do to get relief on your own.
- Get adequate rest to allow your body’s immune system to function optimally, and fight off any infections
- Stay well-hydrated, and avoid smoke and other irritants
- Avoid acidic food and beverages.
- Gargle with warm salt water
- Take acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen, and make sure you get plenty of rest.
- Use a humidifier, and drinks lots of fluids.
- Inhale steam, and run hot water in a sink, and drape a towel over your head to trap the steam.
- Breathe deeply through your mouth and nose for 5 to 10 minutes, and repeat several times a day.
- Give yourself some frozen treats like ice pops, and sip chicken broth or warm tea with honey. Don’t give honey to a child under one year of age.
- Take throat lozenges or suck on hard candy.
Treatment of Sore Throat
A sore throat caused by a viral infection usually lasts five to seven days and disappear without medical treatment. However, to ease pain and fever, many people turn to acetaminophen (Tylenol) or other mild pain relievers.
For children, consider giving your child over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications designed for infants or children. These include acetaminophen or ibuprofen (Pediatric Advil, Motrin Infant, others) to ease symptoms.
Use caution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers, because aspirin has been linked to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition, in some children.
Treating Bacterial Infections
If your sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor should prescribe antibiotics for you, and 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, and it can increase a child’s risk of rheumatic fever or serious kidney inflammation.
If a sore throat is a symptom of any condition other than a viral or bacterial infection, other treatments option will likely be considered depending on the diagnosis.
Although a number of alternative treatments are commonly used to soothe a sore throat, clinical evidence is still limited about what works.
Consult your doctor before using any herbal remedies, as they can interact with prescription medications and may not be safe for children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions.
Herbal or alternative products for a sore throat are often packaged as teas, sprays or lozenges, and common alternative remedies include:
- Honeysuckle flower Slippery elm
- Licorice root
- Marshmallow root and
- other Chinese herbal medicines