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Sore Throats and When To See a Doctor

Sore Throats and When To See a Doctor


Sore throat, also known as pharyngitis, is an infection in which the throat's pain, scratchiness, or irritation worsens, especially during swallowing. Viral infections, such as the flu or a cold, are the most common causes of sore throats. Most sore throats are caused by infections or environmental factors such as dry air. A sore throat can sometimes become very uncomfortable but usually goes away on its own in 3 to 4 days without medication. Sore throats are classified according to the part of the throat affected:


Affects the region behind the mouth.


Characterized by swelling and redness of the soft tissue at the back of the mouth.


Characterized by swelling and redness of the voice box or larynx.

Sore Throat Causes

Infections by infectious viruses or bacteria cause most sore throats. Other potential causes include:


Colds, flu, measles, chickenpox, croup, and mononucleosis (mono). Mononucleosis (mono) symptoms may continue for weeks, such as sore throat and excessive fatigue. Other symptoms are frequent headaches, fever, armpit swelling, groin swelling, and severe breathing difficulties.

Bacterial infections:

The Streptococcus bacterium causes strep throat and scarlet fever, as well as tonsillitis, pneumonia, sinusitis, and ear infections. Swollen or painful lymph nodes in the neck are common symptoms of strep throat. Children may suffer from a headache or stomachache.


Also known as whooping cough, is a highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacterium. This illness may cause excessive coughing, difficulty breathing, and a "whooping" sound. Epiglottitis is the deadliest throat infection because it creates swelling that restricts the airway. Symptoms include uncomfortable swallowing, garbled speech, and trouble breathing. Epiglottitis isn't always visible from the mouth.

Allergies include

pollen, molds, animal dander, and household dust.


Sore throat can be caused by dry heat, dehydration, a runny nose, and pollutants like car exhaust, chemicals, or even straining your voice.


Occurs when stomach contents regurgitate into the throat. Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) refers to reflux that occurs in the throat. When you first wake up in the morning, you may notice this.


Throat, tongue, and larynx (voice box) tumors may induce a sore throat with ear-reaching discomfort. Other vital signs may include a hoarse voice, trouble swallowing, loud breathing, a lump in the neck, sudden weight loss, and blood in the saliva or phlegm.


Regardless of the source, you may minimize throat infections by taking the following precautions: Avoid body contact with infected individuals since these illnesses are transmitted via direct touch. Constantly wash your hands using hand-washing with soap or an alcohol-based solution. In between hand-washings, refrain from touching your face. Do not touch other people's contaminated tissues.

Sore Throat vs. Strep Throat

Strep throat symptoms are similar to those of sore throat, although strep throat has tonsillar or posterior pharyngeal whitish spots, just a sore throat with no other cough or cold symptoms. Strep throat comes with a swollen lymph node just below the earlobes.

When to See a Doctor

Even though a sore throat isn't usually a life-threatening condition, it's vital to keep an eye out for other symptoms that may accompany it. Symptoms of strep throat or other diseases, such as scarlet fever or pneumonia, should be watched. The American Academy of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery recommends that people go to the doctor if they have a sore throat for more than a week or if they have any of the following symptoms: Fever of more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit Severe swallowing discomfort. Infections with pus or white spots on the tonsils. The roof of the mouth is covered with small crimson dots. Infants and toddlers under the age of two who drool too much. Vomiting and nausea Lymph nodes that have become engorged Severe headaches, pains in the muscles or joints. Blood in the phlegm or saliva Coughing, hoarseness, or a shift in pitch Fatigue Rash

Sore Throat Diagnosis

During the examination, the doctor will ask about your symptoms and examine the back of your neck for redness, swelling, and white spots using a light. The doctor may also explore the sides of your neck to check for swollen glands. A throat culture will be taken if your doctor believes you have strep throat. The doctor will use a swab to obtain a sample from the back of your throat to test for strep throat germs. The results of a fast strep test will be available to the doctor in minutes. The sample will also be submitted to a lab for testing to confirm the diagnosis. It takes one to two days for a lab test to verify if you have strep throat. More tests may be required to determine the cause of your sore throat.

Sore Throat Treatment

Whether a virus or bacteria causes your sore throat will depend on your treatment. Bacterial illnesses, including strep throat, are treated with antibiotics such as penicillin and amoxicillin, which destroy the dangerous bacteria. Antibiotics for sore throats may be administered orally in tablet form or as an injection. Because strep throat is infectious, you should avoid body contact with others for at least 24 hours after starting the medications. If you have strep throat, it will likely go away within 2-3 days after taking antibiotics. Bacteria or viruses may cause tonsillitis. Antibiotics may be used to treat tonsillitis caused by bacterial infections. If you have a viral infection, you must let it take its course. Antibiotics for sore throats only work against bacterial infections, so they won't help with viral tonsillitis or other diseases like the flu.

Home Remedies for Sore Throat

Inflammation may be reduced by gargling with warm saltwater. Drinking hot liquids like honey-infused herbal tea, warm water with lemon, or soup broth. Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen are common over-the-counter pain medications. Temporarily numb the discomfort of a sore throat by using tablets or throat sprays. If the post-nasal drip is a factor, consider decongestants and other cold treatments. Use a cold mist humidifier to relieve congestion and soothe the sore throat. In addition to these home remedies, it is essential to get enough rest and drink enough water to give your immune system the best chance of beating the infection and speeding up your recovery.

Popular Misconceptions

Myth: Antibiotics are the only treatment for sore throats.

Cold viruses often cause sore throats, and no extreme action is required if sore throats come without a fever. Antibiotics are useless without a fever. Antibiotics might cause immunity if used too often.

Myth: Cold and flu medications can treat sore throats.

Cold and flu medicines don't cure sore throats; they treat symptoms and causes. Antibiotics treat the bacterial infection, not the sore throat.

Myth: Cold foods and drinks cause sore throats.

According to a 2013 study, ice cream may help cool throat nerve endings and reduce pain signals.

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