Sore Throats: Symptoms and Treatments

Let’s talk about one of the most common signs of illness: a sore throat!

A sore throat can indicate anything from overuse and allergies to bacterial and viral infections, which can make it difficult to discern the seriousness of this ailment. But no matter the root cause, it’s important to pay attention and take action right away in order to minimize the effects for both yourself and others.

What Are the Symptoms of a Sore Throat?

Of course, you can probably identify when you have a painful sensation in your throat. But a sore throat can also be characterised by difficulty swallowing, swelling in the neck or jaw (especially in the lymph nodes), a dry throat, a hoarse voice, or coughing. You or a medical professional may also be able to see white spots or pus on your tonsils when a sore throat occurs. Many people also experience post-nasal drip prior to or during a sore throat.

Other associated symptoms might include fever, headaches and body aches, respiratory problems, stomach pains, or even nausea and vomiting. However, you may not experience all of these symptoms with a sore throat; the symptoms you experience will be largely dependent on the severity and cause of your ailment.

What Causes a Sore Throat?

That brings us to talk about the situations that may result in a sore throat.

As we mentioned earlier, overuse — like screaming at a concert, shouting at a sports event, or even talking loudly in a social situation — can cause a sore throat. Environmental factors can also trigger a sore throat for some people, particularly if you have a sensitivity to mould, pet hair, cigarette smoke, or seasonal allergies.

In addition, viral and bacterial infections are known to cause a sore throat. Influenza and the common cold can both make your throat sore, as can chickenpox, measles, strep throat, whooping cough, mononucleosis, and a number of other diseases. Because there’s so much overlap, you’ll likely need to assess other symptoms you may be experiencing and see a doctor to definitively determine the cause of your sore throat.

How is a Sore Throat Treated?

It’s important to note that sore throats may be successfully treated at home, provided that more serious causes are ruled out.

You can treat a sore throat at home by using a saltwater gargle, staying hydrated with warm liquids (such as soup, water, and caffeine-free tea), or taking throat lozenges. You can also use an over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce inflammation in the throat. Of course, you should also avoid allergens and avoid speaking as much as possible (a practice often referred to as vocal rest) to facilitate comfort and healing.

Under some circumstances, you may need to seek out professional medical care to relieve your sore throat. If you have a bacterial infection, your doctor will need to prescribe antibiotics to clear up your illness and alleviate your symptoms. Your doctor may also recommend anti-viral medications (like a decongestant or another prescription drug) in certain cases.

If you’ve had symptoms of a sore throat for several days without improvement, you should make an appointment with your doctor. If your sore throat persists and is accompanied by a high fever, a rash, joint pain, breathing difficulties, a lump in the throat, and/or bloody mucus, you should obtain emergency care right away.

Now that you know the most common symptoms, causes, and treatments associated with a sore throat, you can make more informed decisions about your own health — and potentially avoid some of the more serious circumstances involving sore throats.