What is a Sore Throat?
A sore throat is a scratchiness, pain, or irritation of the throat that worsens when you swallow. A sore throat is usually caused by a viral infection, like a cold or the flu. Such sore throats generally resolve on their own.
However, some sore throats can be due to other reasons, so let us move on to understanding the common causes of sore throats.
What Causes Sore Throats?
Viruses cause the most sore throats. However, there are several other causes of sore throats as well. They include:
Viral infections: Viral illnesses that cause a sore throat to involve:
- Common cold
- Flu (influenza)
- Mono (mononucleosis)
- Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- Croup — a usual childhood illness having a harsh, barking cough
Bacterial infections: Several bacterial infections can cause a sore throat. The common one is Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus), which causes strep throat.
Other causes: Other sore throat causes are:
- Allergies: If you are allergic to things like pet dander, dust, molds, and pollen, you may have a sore throat. Postnasal drip can complicate the problem, which can inflame and irritate your throat.
- Dryness: Indoor dry air can make your throat feel scratchy and rough. Breathing from your mouth — often due to chronic nasal congestion — can cause a sore, dry throat.
- Irritants: Outdoor air pollution and indoor pollution like chemicals or tobacco smoke cause a chronic sore throat. Drinking alcohol, chewing tobacco, and consuming spicy foods can irritate your throat.
- Muscle strain: Yelling, talking, or talking loudly for long periods without rest can strain muscles in your throat. This can lead to a sore throat.
- Tumors: Cancerous tumors of the throat, tongue voice box (larynx) can cause a sore throat. Other symptoms involve difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, noisy breathing, a lump in the neck, and blood in phlegm or saliva.
Less commonly, an infected tissue (abscess) area in your throat or swelling of your small cartilage "lid" that covers the windpipe (epiglottitis). This can cause a sore throat as well. Both conditions block the airway, leading to a medical emergency.
Now that you know some causes of a sore throat let us understand some treatments that can ease the condition.
What Treatments might Help?
Unless your sore throat is intense or accompanied by other worrying symptoms, it is worth taking a little self-care and riding out the storm. Taking ibuprofen or paracetamol to relieve inflammation and pain can be helpful.
Staying hydrated or taking remedies like lozenges, gargles, or throat sprays, available from your pharmacist. With proper care and rest, several sore throats can improve without much intervention. But some medical conditions require the medical attention of an ENT specialist in Visakhapatnam.
When should I seek Medical Attention?
While most sore throats can get resolved without consulting a doctor, it is essential to take the advice of your specialist in a few cases. It includes:
- If your sore throat does not improve after a week
- If you have a high temperature,
- If your sore throat keeps returning.
- If your immune system gets compromised because of cancer treatment, HIV infection, or diabetes – it is important to seek additional advice and the best course of treatment.
- If your throat gets swollen and you cannot swallow or your tongue swells, you should seek urgent medical advice. Similarly, if you get rashes, start drooling, or have a high temperature not resolved with paracetamol, consult your doctor.
- Lastly, if your sore throat lasts for more than three weeks and is not accompanied by an upper respiratory tract infection (common cold), it is essential to get medical advice.
It is reassuring to know, yet, in many cases, sore throats will resolve without further intervention. It is estimated that 85% of sore throat resolves within a week and 40% within three days. Yet, if you are worried and have a persistent sore throat, it is essential to visit an ENT hospital.