Sore Throat: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Sore throats are a common problem that can be caused by many conditions. Although it will usually resolve over time, there are many ways to relieve symptoms and ease the pain.

How To Treat A Sore Throat

Sore throat refers to a sore, dry or scratchy feeling in your throat.

The most common symptoms of pain in the throat are more than 2% of all adult primary-care visits.

Sore throats can be caused by infection or environmental factors such as dry air. A sore throat is not always painful.

There are three types of sore throats. They differ in the area they affect.

  • Pharyngitis causes swelling of the throat.
  • Tonsillitis refers to swelling and reddening of the tonsils (soft tissue at the back of your mouth).
  • Laryngitis refers to swelling and reddening of the voice box, or larynx.

Sore Throat

A sore throat may feel different depending on the cause. Sore throats can feel like:

  • Scratchy
  • Burning
  • raw
  • Dry
  • tender
  • Irritated

You might feel it more if you swallow or speak. It may also appear red in your throat and tonsils.

Sometimes, the tonsils may develop white spots or pustules. These white patches are more common with strep than in sore throats caused by viruses.

You may also experience symptoms such as:

  • nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • sneezing
  • cough
  • fever
  • Swollen glands around the neck
  • hoarse voice
  • body aches
  • trouble swallowing

Sore Throat vs. Strep Throat

A sore throat could be an indication of streptococcus, which can lead to infection by a type bacteria called Streptococcus Pyogenes.

Strep throat can cause more than a sore throat.

  • pain after swallowing
  • fever
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • headache
  • stomach pain
  • Red or swollen toenails which may sometimes have white spots
  • Small red spots appear on the roof of your mouth
  • nausea or vomiting

Strep throat isn’t like other conditions that can cause sore throats. It doesn’t include symptoms such as a runny nose or pink eye.

A sore throat will usually heal on its own, but strep throat must be treated with antibiotics.

Sore throat vs. Covid-19

COVID-19 can be a viral infection that can lead to sore throats and other symptoms.

Other possible symptoms from COVID-19 are:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • headache
  • Loss of taste or odor
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • diarrhea
  • nausea or vomiting

You may consider testing if you have any of these symptoms, or if you’ve recently been exposed to COVID-19.

Viral Sore Throat vs. Bacterial

A sore throat is most often caused by viral infections such as the common cold, flu measles and chickenpox.

A sore throat due to a viral infection is likely to heal on its own without treatment.

To prevent complications, a sore throat due to a bacterial infection might require treatment with antibiotics.

Talk to your doctor if you have severe symptoms or a persistent sore throat for more than a week.

8 Causes for Sore Throats

Sore throats can be caused by infections or injuries. Here are eight common causes of sore throats.

1. The flu, colds and other viral infections

A viral infection is the most common cause of sore throat. Sore throats can be caused by the following viruses:

  • The common cold
  • influenza — the flu
  • COVID-19
  • mononucleosis is an infectious disease transmitted via saliva
  • measles is an illness that causes rash and fever.
  • Chickenpox is an infection that causes fever and itchy bumpy skin.
  • Mumps are an infection that causes swelling in the salivary glands of the neck.

2. Strep throat and other bacterial infection

Sore throats can also be caused by bacterial infections. One of the most common is strep-thymia, which is caused by group A streptococcus bacteria.

Strep throat is responsible for between 20-30% of all sore throat cases in children. A sore throat can also be caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia.

3. Allergies

The immune system reacts to allergen triggers such as pollen, grass and pet danger and releases chemicals that can cause symptoms like watery eyes, sneezing and irritation of the throat.

The back of your throat can be irritated by excess mucus from the nose. This is known as postnasal drainage, and can cause irritation to the throat.

4. Dry Air

Dry air can dry out the throat and mouth, causing it to feel dry and scratchy. When the heater is on, the air will be dry.

5. Toxic substances, chemicals and smoke are all possible

Many chemicals and other substances found in the environment can irritate the throat.

  • Any type of smoke, tobacco smoke
  • air pollution
  • Cleaning products and other chemicals
  • Aerosolized sprays such as air fresheners, are available in aerosolized form.

More than 90% of rescue workers experienced an acute cough within the first 24 hours after September 11. Many also reported upper respiratory symptoms such as sore throat or congestion.

6. Injury

Some types of injury can cause pain to the throat. It can also be irritating if food gets stuck in your throat.

Repeated vocal use can strain the vocal cords and muscles of the throat. A sore throat can be caused by repeated loud talking, yelling or singing for long periods of time. For example, sore throats is a common complaint for teachers and fitness instructors who are often required to shout.

7. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) refers to a condition where acid from the stomach backs into the esophageal tube, which carries food from your stomach to your mouth.

Acid burns your throat and esophagus, causing symptoms such as heartburn or acid reflux — the regurgitation acid into your throat.

LPR (Laryngopharyngeal Reflux), also known as silent reflux can cause acid from the stomach to back up into the throat or esophagus, causing sore throat.

8. Tumor

A sore throat is less common if there is a throat tumor, voice box, or tongue. A sore throat can be a sign of Cancer and it will not go away within a few days.

Sore Throat Risks

Although anyone can get sore throats, there are many factors that can increase your chances.

Some common risk factors include:

  • Age: Children are more vulnerable to certain conditions that may cause sore throats, including strep.
  • Year: Some types of infection are more prevalent in certain seasons, such as winter.
  • Exposition to irritants Many irritants such as pollution or cigarette smoke can cause sore throats.
  • Your personal hygiene: A lack of hand washing can increase the risk of infection.
  • Certain settings Schools and daycares can increase the spread infection that can cause sore throats.
  • Vocal strain People who yell or talk loudly can cause strain to their vocal cords, which can lead to sore throats.

Home Remedies to A Sore Throat

Most sore throats can be treated at home. To give your immune system the chance to fight the infection, get plenty of rest.

For sore throat pain relief:

  • Use warm water mixed with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt to gargle
  • Warm liquids with soothing properties are recommended, such as warm tea with honey, soup broth or warm water with lemon. Trusted Source herbal teas can be soothing for a sore throat.
  • You can cool your throat with a popsicle, ice cream or other cold treat.
  • Enjoy a piece of hard candy, or a lozenge.
  • To add moisture to the atmosphere, turn on a cool-mist humidifier.
  • Keep your voice low until your throat is clear.

How Do You Prevent Sore Throat

Although sore throats cannot be prevented, there are steps you can take that will help to prevent them.

You may be able prevent sore throat by using trusted source

  • Regularly wash your hands
  • Avoid contact with people who have sore throats, colds, or respiratory infections.
  • If you smoke, consider quitting
  • Avoid secondhand smoking as much as possible

How to Visit a Doctor

A viral infection can cause sore throats. They usually heal within 7 Days. But, there are some things you can do to treat a sore throat.

If you experience any of these symptoms, consult your doctor immediately.

  • Grave sore throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Trouble breathing or Pain when you breath
  • It is difficult to open your mouth
  • sore joints
  • A fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38° Celsius)
  • Stiff or painful neck
  • Blood in your saliva or Phlegm
  • A sore throat that persists for longer than one week

What is a Sore Throat?

The doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and use a flashlight to examine your back for any reddening, swelling, or white spots. To check for swelling, the doctor may also examine your neck.

To diagnose strep-thymia, the doctor will order a throat culture. To test for strep throat bacteria, the doctor will perform a throat swab. The doctor will quickly get the results with a rapid test for strep throat bacteria.

The sample will be sent to a laboratory to confirm the diagnosis. Although the lab test can only confirm that you have strep, it takes about 1-2 days.

The throat culture can be used to test for other types of bacterial infection, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. A mononucleosis spot-test or mono antibodies test can be used to rule out mononucleosis.

Sometimes, you may need to have more tests done in order to determine the root cause of your sore throat. A specialist in treating diseases of the throat is called an ear nose and throat (ENT) doctor.


To relieve sore throat pain or treat the underlying cause, you can use medications.

There are many over-the-counter remedies to relieve throat pain:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • Aspirin

Aspirin should not be given to teenagers or children as it has been linked to the rare and serious condition Reye’s syndrome.

These treatments can be used to relieve the soreness of your throat.

  • A sore throat spray should contain phenol or a cooling agent such as menthol.
  • Lozenges for the throat
  • To treat cough, use cough syrup

Some herbs are also sold as sore-throes remedies. Although there isn’t much evidence that these herbs work, some people might find herbal teas with these ingredients, like Throat Coat beneficial.

Shop for Throat Coat herbal tea.

Medications that lower stomach acid may be helpful for GERD symptoms such as a sore throat. These medications include:

  • Antacids such a Tums and Rolaids Maalox and Mylanta to neutralize stomach acids
  • H2 blocking like cimetidine (TagametHB) and Famotidine(Pepcid AC) to lower stomach acid production.
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as lansoprazole 24 (Prevacid 24), and omeprazole to stop acid production.

Low-dose corticosteroids may also be helpful Trusted Source to ease the soreness of the throat.

If You Have A Need for Antibiotics

Antibiotics are used to treat bacteria-related infections, such as strep throat. They don’t treat viral infections.

To prevent complications such as bronchitis and rheumatic disease, you need to treat a sore throat with antibiotics. Antibiotics can reduce soreness by approximately 1 day and lower the likelihood of rheumatic-fever by more than two-thirds.

A course of antibiotics is usually prescribed by doctors for a period of 10 Days. Even if you feel better, it is important to continue taking the prescribed medication.

Some bacteria can be left alive if you stop taking antibiotics too soon. This can lead to further infection. It can also cause Trusted Source antibiotic resistance which makes it harder to treat future infections with antibiotics.

Commonly Asked Questions

Is it normal to have a sore throat prior to getting a cold?

A sore throat is one of the most common symptoms of a mild. Other symptoms include sneezing and congestion.

How long should a sore throat last?

A sore throat should heal in 7 Days. Consult a doctor if your sore throat persists or you have other severe symptoms.

What foods are the most harmful for sore throats?

Dry foods and raw vegetables, as well as foods that are hard to swallow, can worsen sore throats. Your throat can be irritated by spicy foods and acidic fruits like lemons and limes.

What is the reason my sore throat switches sides?

A sore throat can be caused by many conditions, such as tonsillitis, laryngitis and canker sores. Postnasal drip can also cause irritation of the throat. It may appear to be switching sides depending on which side it is.

The Bottom Line

Sore throats are most often caused by viral and bacterial infections as well as injuries and irritants. Most sore throats resolve in a matter of days, even if there is no treatment.

Warm liquids, saltwater gargles and over-the counter pain relievers are all possible to soothe a sore throat at-home.

Antibiotics can be used to treat strep throat and other bacterial infections. To determine if you have strep, a doctor may use a swab test.

For more severe symptoms like difficulty breathing, swallowing, high fever, stiff neck, or trouble breathing, consult a doctor.


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