Diseases & Conditions

Sore Throat

Sore ThroatCausesPreventionSurgerySymptomsTreatmentOther signs

What is Sore Throat?

Sore throat is a common medical symptom and is caused by throat inflammation or acute pharyngitis. It can be the symptom of many primary diseases. Sore throat can cause mild to severe pain in the throat.

Causes of Sore Throat

  • Sore throat can be caused by viral infections such as common cold, upper respiratory tract infection
  • Sore throat can also be due to bacterial infections such as strep throat which is caused by streptococcal bacteria
  • Chemicals such as smoke, injuries, allergies, post nasal drip can also cause sore throat
  • Medical treatments such as airway management during surgical procedures, tonsillectomy, chemotherapy or radiation for cancer treatment can also cause sore throat.

Prevention of Sore Throat

A healthy person should avoid close contact with anyone suffering from throat infection. Cold viruses get transmitted more easily than bacterial streptococcal infections. Washing hands regularly can prevent the spread of germs and prevent the development of sore throat.

Surgery for Sore Throat

If the sore throat is caused due to any abscess between the pharynx and spine or behind the tonsil, surgical drainage of the abscess may be required. This is, however, a very rare case. Surgical removal of tonsils, otherwise called as tonsillectomy is occasionally performed if the tonsils are causing too many problems.

Symptoms of Sore Throat

Symptoms of sore throat can be as follows:

  • Throat pain with difficulty in swallowing in case of pharyngitis
  • If the laryngitis is affected, the person may have hoarse voice
  • Sore throat can exist with other conditions such as runny nose or coughing if the person is affected by cold virus.

Treatment of Sore Throat

Sore throats generally run their course without needing the intervention of medications.

Some home treatments may include:

  • Salt water gargling, taking lozenges or hard candies, sprays (Chloraseptic) for temporary pain relief
  • Humidifiers may help in relieving sore throat symptoms, especially if they are caused due to dry air and mouth breathing
  • Ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen (non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs) can be given to control the pain.
  • Nasal sprays like Afrin may be taken for 2-3 days by adults whose nose is blocked.
  • Decongestants such as Sudafed are helpful in relieving sore throat for some people.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids is absolutely essential to prevent the body from dehydrating. High quality fluids like sugar containing solutions and soup broths should be consumed. If it is difficult to drink, a person needs to decrease the body’s fluid requirement by taking plenty of rest.
  • Caffeine can cause dehydration, so it is best to avoid it if a person is suffering from sore throat.

Medical Treatment of Sore Throat

Treatment of sore throat involves treatment for difficult breathing, pain and dehydration.

Antibiotics are helpful only if bacteria are causing the sore throat. In case it is difficult to diagnose the cause of sore throat, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics anyway, as a precaution. Antibiotics are helpful in preventing rheumatic fever which can be a complication of streptococcal infection. Rheumatic fever can cause the heart muscles and valves to become inflamed. Corticosteroids may be prescribed to treat sore throat conditions caused because of croup or severe tonsillitis.

Other signs of Sore Throat

A few signs may also indicate sore throat:

  • Redness of oropharynx when it is viewed from the mouth
  • Pus on the tonsils
  • Inflamed lymph nodes or tender neck glands
  • Spitting or drooling when swallowing becomes painful.
  • Difficult breathing when air cannot be properly inhaled in the pharynx or larynx passages due to their constriction
  • Bumpy fluids on a red base (vesicles) in the oropharynx or oral cavity which can be indicative of presence of herpes simplex virus or Coxsackievirus