What you need to know about sore throat

What you need to know about sore throat post thumbnail image


A sore throat also known as throat pain is scratchiness, pain or irritation of the throat that often worsens when you swallow. It is simply known as pain felt anywhere in the throat. The most common cause of a sore throat is viral infection (a group A streptococcus) and infections such as a cold or the flu. Other causes include pharyngitis (inflammation of the throat), tonsilitis (inflammation of the tonsils), or dehydration, which leads to the throat drying up. It can also result from trauma. Majority of sore throats are caused by a virus, for which antibiotics are not helpful. A strong association between antibiotic misuse and antibiotic resistance has been shown also a sore throat caused by a virus resolves on its own.


The symptoms of a sore throat can vary depending on what caused it. The following may appear to be the symptoms of sore throat

  • Dry throat
  • Throat irritation
  • Pain or a scratchy sensation in the throat
  • Pain that worsens with swallowing or talking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sore and swollen glands in your neck or jaw
  • Swollen, red tonsils
  • White patches or pus on your tonsils
  • A hoarse or muffled voice
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sneezing


Viruses that cause the common cold and the flu also cause most sore throats. Less often, bacterial infections cause sore throats.

Viral illnesses that cause a sore throat include:

  • Common cold
  • Measles
  • Chickenpox
  • Corona Virus(Covid-19)

Some bacterial infections can cause sore throat. The most common is Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus) which causes strep throat.

Other causes of sore throat include;

Allergies: Allergies to strong smells, molds and dust can cause a sore throat. The inhalation of these releases chemicals that cause symptoms like nasal congestion, watery eyes and sneezing. This problem may be complicated by postnasal drip where excess mucus in the nose can drip down the back of the throat which can irritate and inflame the throat thereby causing sore throat.

Dryness: Dry indoor air can make your throat feel rough and scratchy also, breathing through your mouth often because of nasal congestion can cause a dry and sore throat.

Irritants: Many different chemicals and other substances in the environment irritate the throat. Outdoor air pollution such as air pollution from manufacturing industries and indoor pollution such as tobacco smoke, some cleaning products and strong smell from cooking can cause sore throat. Chewing tobacco, drinking alcohol and eating spicy foods also can irritate your throat thereby causing sore throat.

Injury/Muscle strain

Repeated use strains the vocal cords and muscles in the throat. A sore throat can be gotten after yelling, talking loudly, or singing for a long period of time. Sore throats are a common complaint among fitness instructors and teachers, who often have to yell.

Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD): GERD is a digestive system disorder in which stomach acids are returned back up into the food pipe (esophagus). The acid burns the esophagus and throat, causing symptoms like heartburn and sore throat.

When to see a doctor in cases of adverse symptoms of sore throat:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Unusual drooling, which might indicate an inability to swallow
  • A sore throat that is severe or lasts longer than a week
  • Joint pain
  • Earache
  • Fever higher than 101 F (38.3 C)
  • Blood in your saliva or phlegm
  • Frequently recurring sore throats
  • A lump in your neck


Below are some tips for the prevention of sore throat;

  • Cough or sneezeinto a tissue and throw it away, and then wash your hands. When necessary, sneeze into your elbow.
  • Wash your handsthoroughly and frequently for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the toilet, before and after eating, and after sneezing or coughing.
  • Regularly clean and disinfectphones, doorknobs, light switches, remotes and computer keyboards. When you travel, clean phones, light switches and remotes in your hotel room.
  • Avoid sharingfood, drinking glasses or utensils.


Medications can be taken to relieve the pain of a sore throat, or to treat the underlying cause. Pain medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory diseases (NSAIDs) and paracetamol (acetaminophen) help in the management of pain also, the use of corticosteroid seems to increase the likelihood of resolution and reduce the level of pain.

The following treatments can also be used as they work directly on the pain of a sore throat:

  • Sore throat spray that contains a numbing antiseptic like phenol, or a cooling ingredient like menthol or eucalyptus
  • Throat lozenges
  • Cough syrup

Strep throat (streptococcal infection), a less common type of sore throat caused by bacteria, requires treatment with antibiotics to prevent complications. Other less common causes of sore throat might require more complex treatment.

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