A sore throat can be a real pain in the neck, literally, but is very common and usually nothing to worry about. Your throat feels irritated or scratchy. You may also feel mild discomfort or a burning pain. A sore throat may also feel worse when you swallow.
Sore throats are typically caused by viruses such as a cold or flu and should clear up in a few days. However, bacterial infection can also cause a sore throat. Fortunately, most sore throats go away without medical treatment. You normally get better within a week.
But, if you have a sudden, severe sore throats without coughing, sneezing, or other cold symptoms, you could have strep throat. Strep throat is a bacterial infection of the throat and tonsils. About 1 out of 10 sore throats in adults is caused by strep throat.
What causes a sore throat?
Most sore throats are caused by colds or the flu. A virus can cause a sore throat. These include tonsillitis, strep throat and mononucleosis (mono). Other causes include smoking, snoring while you sleep, pollution and allergies to pets, pollens and molds. Yelling or vocal abuse can also cause sore throats.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Sore throat means that your throat hurts and is irritated, swollen, or scratchy. Depending on the cause of your symptoms include:
- Pain in the throat and difficulty swallowing.
- White spots on your throat or tonsils.
- Dry, scratchy throat.
- A red throat.
- Swollen tonsils.
- A high temperature.
- Swollen glands in your neck.
- Bad breath.
When to see your doctor
You must see your doctor if you or a family member experiences any of the following:
- has trouble swallowing
- isn’t drinking liquids
- is drooling (in a young child)
- feels very tired
- has pus in the back of the throat
- has sore throats that lasts longer than a few days
Sore throat treatment
If your sore throat is cause by the flu, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medicine. Antibiotics don’t work on viruses. However, most sore throats caused by a cold or flu-type virus. They go away in a week to 10 days.
If your sore throat is caused by bacteria, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic. You will feel better in a few days. But, it is important to take all of your antibiotics. Because, it reduces the risk that sore throats will return.
Self-care of a sore throat
If you are looking after yourself, the tips below may help relieve the symptoms:
- Gargle with warm, salty water.
- Drink hot water with honey and lemon.
- Take over-the-counter pain medicine such as ibuprofen.
- It is important to stay well hydrated so drink plenty of water. If you have an existing medical condition such as kidney failure, check with your doctor about how much water is right for you.
- Warm or iced drinks and ice blocks may be soothing.
- Avoid foods that cause pain when you swallow. Try eating soft foods such as yoghurt, soup or ice cream.
- Rest and avoid heavy activity until symptoms go away.
- Keep the room at a comfortable temperature.
- Smoking or breathing in other people’s smoke can make symptoms worse. Try to avoid being around people who are smoking. If you are a smoker, try to cut down or quit.
Tips to prevent a sore throat
- Replace your toothbrush every month.
- Toss an old toothbrush once you’ve recovered from a sore throat to prevent re-infection.
- Wash your hands often.
- Stop smoking, which can irritate the throat.
- Encourage your child to cover their mouth and nose when they sneeze or cough.
- Don’t share utensils or toothbrushes.