Posted August 20, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 4 min read
Sore throat is marked by pain, itchiness or irritation of the throat, which is mostly caused by a virus but can also be caused by a bacteria. Moreover, environmental factors like pollutants, smoking & seasonal or food allergies can also cause sore throat. A painful throat can simply come along with a cold or runny nose but sometimes, it can be a sign of some underlying problems such as respiratory tract infections.
Also known as Pharyngitis
Viral infections cause the majority of sore throats. These mostly include:
Flu or influenza
Infectious mononucleosis or glandular fever
Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD)
Many bacterial infections can cause a sore throat. The most common bacteria to cause sore throats are:
Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus) which causes strep throat.
Arcanobacterium haemolyticum causes sore throat mainly in adolescents and is sometimes accompanied by a red rash.
Less common causes of bacterial sore throat are chlamydia, gonorrhea and corynebacterium.
Allergies to pet fur or tiny pieces of skin shed by animals, molds, pollen, grass and dust can also cause sore throat.
Dry indoor air can reduce moisture in the mouth and make the throat feel rough and scratchy. Indoor air is mostly dry in the winters due to use of heaters.
Air pollution, cigarette or tobacco smoke, secondhand smoke, cleaning products and other chemicals, spicy foods, and hot liquids can also irritate the throat.
Sinus infections can cause post-nasal drip in which mucus runs down the back of the throat. This infected mucus can cause a sore throat.
Injuries like hit or cut to the neck, can cause pain in the throat. A piece of food or some external particle stuck in the throat can also irritate it.
Repeated use of vocal cords can strain the throat muscles. Yelling, talking loudly or talking or singing for long periods without a break, can cause sore throat.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
It is a condition in which the stomach acids move back up into the food pipe. When the acid reach the throat, they can irritate it and cause sore throat.
Certain antibiotics, chemotherapy, or other immune-compromising medications can cause sore throat due to growth of the yeast candida.
In rare cases, cancerous tumors of the throat, tongue or voice box can also a sore throat.
Loss of appetite
Red and swollen tonsils
Your doctor will ask you a few questions about your symptoms followed by a physical examination of your throat. He/she might check the back of your throat for redness, swelling and white patches.
Your doctor might also feel the sides of your throat to check for the presence of swollen glands.
If your doctor suspects strep throat, a bacterial infection, then a throat swab or culture will be advised to diagnose it. In some cases, your doctor might also recommend some additional tests to know the exact cause of the sore throat.
Throat swab: In this, a sterile swab is rubbed over the back of the throat to get a sample of secretions and sent to the lab for testing. Rapid antigen tests, although not sensitive, can detect strep bacteria quickly.
Throat culture: Your doctor may send a throat culture to a lab to test for strep throat if the antigen test comes back negative.
Analgesics or pain relief medications
You can take over-the-counter (OTC) medications to relieve pain. These include:
Note: Never give aspirin to children as it can lead to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but very serious illness in kids that affects the liver and brain.
In some cases, use of throat lozenges & cough syrups are also known to provide relief from sore throat.
If your sore throat is caused due to an underlying stomach problem such as gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), then medicines recommended include:
Antacids such as aluminum hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide & calcium carbonate
Proton pump inhibitors: omeprazole, pantoprazole & rabeprazole
H2 blockers: famotidine & ranitidine