A sore throat is probably one of the most common ailments. We’ve all had a sore throat at least once in our lives, and a sore throat may well be most people’s first memory of feeling sick. Most sore throats pass quickly, often needing little or no treatment.
What Causes a Sore Throat?
Sore throats can be caused by pathogens – germs that make us ill – like viruses and bacteria. Substances in the air around us that irritate our throats like second-hand cigarette smoke and even dust can make our throats sore. Similarly, if you’re allergic to certain things, allergies sometimes also give you a sore throat.1
What does a sore throat feel like?
A scratchy throat is one of the symptoms of a sore throat. Often, your throat also feels dry, and you might experience pain when you swallow. Depending on the cause, you may also have some swelling in the glands and neck. Some people with sore throats have difficulty speaking and either have a hoarse voice or lose their voice altogether.
These could be symptoms of a range of conditions from allergies to illnesses like strep throat (discussed below), tonsillitis, the common cold, or other upper respiratory tract diseases.
Germs that can cause sore throat
In addition to the irritations we’ve already mentioned, viruses and bacteria are the primary causes of sore throats.
Among these are the viruses that are responsible for the common cold or flu and even sometimes, Covid-19 disease.2 A sore throat and swollen neck glands can be symptoms of glandular fever which is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and which also gives you a high fever and can make you feel very tired.3
The second group of germs that cause sore throats is bacteria, specifically the A Streptococcus (also called Streptococcus pyogenes). It is these bacteria that cause what is commonly known as strep throat or pharyngitis and tonsillitis – inflammation of the throat and tonsils.4
How does a healthcare provider diagnose a sore throat?
To diagnose a sore throat, the health care professional will do a physical examination. This involves shining a light or torch down your throat and s/he may also look into your ears and nose (nasal passages). S/he will also feel around your lower jaw and neck for swollen glands or lymph nodes. If they are worried that you have an upper respiratory tract infection, they will probably also listen to your chest and breathing using a stethoscope.
Treating a sore throat
A viral sore throat usually clears up on its own in a few days. How the doctor treats your sore throat will depend on what has caused it i.e., the diagnosis. Antibiotics are not used to treat viral infections. If, however, you are experiencing either pain or fever, or both, with your sore throat, a mild pain reliever like paracetamol like Cipladon will help.
When to get medical help for a sore throat?
Having said that most sore throats clear up on their own, but some don’t. So, if your sore throat is very sore, goes on for more than 3 to 5 days without getting better, or spreads into one or both ears, go and get medical help. In addition, you should go to the clinic or a healthcare professional if you – 5,6
- are having difficulty swallowing, breathing, or opening your mouth
- have a high fever
- lose your voice for more than a few days, like a week or two
- have blood in your saliva or are coughing up blood
- have swollen glands or lumps in your neck – this could be a sign of glandular fever
Disclaimer: The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.
- DerSarkissian, C., Reviewer. 2020 Why Do I Have a Sore Throat? [Online] Available from <https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/sore-throat-causes> 19/05/2022
- Flu Symptoms & Complications. Center for Disease Control [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/symptoms.htm> 19/04/2022
- Glandular fever. NHS inform, Scotland [Online] Available from <https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/glandular-fever#about-glandular-fever> 19/05/2022
- Group A Streptococcal (GAS) Disease. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Division of Bacterial Diseases <https://www.cdc.gov/groupastrep/diseases-hcp/strep-throat.html> 01/11/2018
- Sore Throat. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Online] Available from <https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/sore-throat.html> 19/05/2022
- Sore throat. NHS inform, Scotland [Online] Available from <https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/ears-nose-and-throat/sore-throat> 19/05/2022
MORE FROM CIPLADON
Whether it’s sharp and sudden or dull and constant, tooth pain is difficult to ignore. This kind of pain in the teeth or surrounding areas, like the gums or jaw, is often caused by some kind of dental disease or ailment. These are commonly the result of poor or...
A fever is a temporary increase in your body temperature, often due to an illness. Having a fever is a sign that something out of the ordinary is going on in your body. This is because your body’s normal average temperature is around 37°C. However, the exact...