A sore throat is a common condition that affects everybody at some point. It is painful and bothersome, but rarely the result of a serious illness, and the telltale symptoms (pain in the throat, scratchiness, difficulty swallowing) usually disappear on their own in a matter of days.
Symptoms & Causes
Besides pain and a scratchy sensation in the throat, symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, dry throat, swollen glands in the neck and jaw, swollen and inflamed tonsils, and a hoarse voice. Additionally, depending on the underlying cause, you may experience fever, chills, cough, runny nose, sneezing, aching muscles and joints, headache, nausea, and vomiting.
The majority of sore throats are caused by viruses like the common cold or flu. Other viral infections include measles, mononucleosis, chickenpox, and croup.
Though less common, bacterial infections may also result in a sore throat. Strep throat, tonsillitis and whooping cough are three of the more likely bacterial culprits.
Other factors contributing to sore throats include allergies, environmental irritants, acid reflux, dry air, strained throat muscles (from improper vocal cord use), and – in rare cases – conditions such as HIV and tumors.
Treatment & Prevention
Treating a sore throat properly depends on the cause. Many times, home remedies work great. Gargling with warm salt water, drinking plenty of fluids, using throat lozenges and cough drops, running a humidifier, and relying on over-the-counter medications (i.e. pain relievers and decongestants) can all bring short-term relief.
For bacterial infections, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. It’s important to take the full course of medicine in order to prevent the infection from returning or getting worse, even when your symptoms seem to have disappeared.
In order to reduce your risk of developing a sore throat, be sure to practice good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap, or use hand-sanitizing lotion to prevent the spread of germs. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve, and avoid sharing food or utensils with others who are sick.