Order your Gargle Water Today

All you need to know about sore throats

Posted on October 20, 2021

Sore throat is among the most common diseases affecting persons across all ages. It causes irritation and scratchiness to the throat and can make it difficult to eat and talk.

Throat pain can be caused by a variety of inflammations of the pharynx, tonsils, or larynx. Some of the most common causes may include acid reflux, a cold virus, and allergies. If the condition persists, you can start having swallowing problems which can lead to other severe complications like weight loss.

This article will outline all the details you need to know about throat pains, sore throat symptoms, causes and treatments, throat pains remedy, and when to see a doctor.

What is a sore throat?

Also medically referred to as pharyngitis, sore throat is the feeling of irritation or pain in the throat that can happen with or without swallowing. Throat pain is one of the common symptoms. A sore throat alone accounts for up to 1.3 million visits to hospitals each year.

Mainly, sore throats are caused by infections or other factors like dry air. Though the pain can be uncomfortable, sore throats always go away on their own.

Sore throat is divided into three different categories depending on the part of the throat affected.

  • Pharyngitis. This type affects the area just behind the mouth.
  • Laryngitis. It affects the larynx or voice box and is usually associated with redness and swelling.
  • Tonsillitis. This is the swelling and redness of the soft tissue located in the back of the mouth or tonsils.

Signs and symptoms of sore throats

Apart from the pain or irritation in the throat, sore throat symptoms may include the following:

  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Pain in the throat that becomes worse when swallowing.
  • A scratchy feeling in the throat.
  • Swollen or sore glands in the jaw area and on the neck.
  • Hoarse voice.
  • Coughing, sneezing, and a running nose.
  • Fever.

Though sore throat symptoms are common across all age groups, they are common among children between five to fifteen years. Precisely, strep is the commonest of all in children.

The symptoms in children can vary depending on the age, but apart from throat pain, the signs may include the following.

  • Tender, swollen lymph nodes in the neck area.
  • Swollen tonsils with signs of pus.
  • Restlessness.
  • Reduced appetite.
  • Fever.
  • Abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Strep throat is not common in children before the age of three years, and these symptoms are less severe during this age bracket. The doctor can prescribe an antibiotic to prevent future complications.

Since viral infections are the frequent cause of sore throats in children, they will not respond to treatment. However, a doctor will be able to prescribe a medication that will help with throat pains remedy.

These symptoms may vary due to the underlying cause of the sore throat. Still, if the following signs are present, you should check with your medical provider.

  • Breathing difficulties.
  • Prolonged sore throat lasting between 7 to 10 days.
  • Swelling of the face or neck.
  • Difficulty opening the mouth.
  • Blood in saliva.
  • Hoarseness that lasts more than two weeks.
  • Lump in the neck.
  • Pains in the ear.

Causes of sore throats

Sore throat causes range from injuries, environmental factors to infections. Below are some of the common reasons you should be on the lookout for.

  1. Viral infections.

Viruses causing common colds and flu are responsible for up to 90% of sore throats. Among the common viruses include the following:

  • Influenza or the flu virus.
  • The common cold.
  • Measles. A common illness-causing fever and rashes on the body.
  • Mumps. An infection associated with the swelling of the salivary glands in the neck area.
  • Chickenpox. An illness that causes itchy, bumpy rashes and fever.
  • Mononucleosis, an infectious disease transmitted through saliva.
  • Bacterial infections.

Most bacterial infections can cause a sore throat. The common among them is called Streptococcus pyogenes, which is responsible for causing strep throat.

Strep throat can result in severe throat pain causing difficulty in swallowing due to swollen tonsils. It can also lead to serious organ complications such as kidney or heart damage if left untreated for long.

Sore throats caused by bacterial infections are responsive to antibiotics, and if noticed at early stages, they can heal very fast.

  • Allergies.

When your body reacts to allergy triggers like dust, pollen grains, or pet dander, it produces chemicals that activate reactions like watery eyes, nasal congestion, irritating throat, and sneezing.

A condition called postnasal drip-flowing back of the excess mucous to the back of the throat can also lead to a sore throat.

  • Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

This is a health condition where the acid in the stomach travels back to the esophagus- a tube carrying food from the mouth to the stomach. The acid burns the walls of the throat and esophagus, leading to symptoms like heartburn and acid reflux.

A sore throat from acid reflux is often worse in the morning hours as the acid can follow the esophagus up to the mouth and cause teeth erosion during the night while you are asleep.

  • Laryngitis from overusing your voice.

This factor is mainly a causative agent among singers and people who use their voice majorly or as part of their careers. It generally causes pain and hoarseness when talking also.

Too much shouting, cheering, and crying loudly causes the throat to dry, then starts to itch. If the condition is not remedied in time, it can lead to a sore throat. Sore throats are a common complaint among choir directors, gym instructors, and teachers.

  • Injuries.

Any injury like a cut or a hit on the neck can result in a sore throat. Also, having a piece of food stuck in your throat can cause throat pain.

Medical conditions to help specific injuries like post-intubation can cause throat pain, especially if the tube is inserted in your throat. It is usually a temporary pain and disappears after some time.

  • HIV infection.

Sore throats and flu-like symptoms commonly appear early after getting infected with HIV and AIDS. Additionally, HIV positive person might experience recurring or chronic throat pains due to a viral infection known as Cytomegalovirus or fungal infection called oral thrush.

These infections can become fatal in people with compromised or weak immune systems. It is, therefore, recommended to regularly do a full body check if you are HIV positive to avoid opportunistic disease that can corrupt your immune system.

  • Dryness and irritants.

Inhaling dry air through your mouth can make your voice scratchy and rough. Breathing through your mouth, primarily due to nasal congestion, dries your throat leading to pain.

Also, indoor and outdoor air pollutions like tobacco smoke, chemicals, or dust can lead to a chronic sore throat. Drinking alcohol, chewing tobacco, and taking spicy foods can irritate your throat, causing a painful feeling.

  • Tumors.

Though it is rare among the causes, tumors of the throat, voice box, or tongue can also cause a sore throat. Symptoms of a cancerous tumor include noisy breathing, difficulty swallowing, blood in the saliva, and a lump on the neck.

Mostly when throat pain is cancerous, it will not go away quickly. You should seek immediate medical attention if you see these symptoms.

  1. Surgery.

Medical operations such as thyroidectomy can also sore throat. Other procedures like EGD– where an endoscope is inserted through the mouth down to the throat can also lead to similar throat pain.

 Risk factors

Although everybody can get a sore throat, some factors make you more vulnerable to the disease. They include the following,

  • Age.

Teenagers and children are more likely to develop sore throats. Children ranging between three to fifteen years are also more likely to have strep throat-a bacterial infection related to a sore throat.

  • Allergies.

Seasonal or an ongoing allergy to dust, pet dander, and mold can an individual develop painful throat-like conditions.

  • Exposure to tobacco smoke.

Direct smoking and secondhand smoke can cause an irritating feeling in the throat. Too much usage of tobacco-based products increases the risk of getting cancer of the throat, mouth, and voice-box.

  • Exposure to chemical irritants,

Particles in the air resulting from burning fossil fuels and common household chemicals can cause sore throats.

  • Weakened immunity.

You are totally more susceptible to sore throat if you have low defense mechanisms.  Lower immunity might result from HIV infection, drugs, special treatments like steroids and chemotherapy drugs, stress, poor diet, and fatigue.

  • Close quarters.

Bacterial and viral infections can quickly spread where there are many people, whether they are school children, offices, airplanes, and even children centers.

  • Frequent or chronic sinus infections.

Excessive drainage from your nasal cavity can lead to irritation in your throat or spread the infection to other areas of the face or neck.

Diagnosis of sore throat.

Diagnosing the cause of sore throat can be done in three ways, lab tests, medical imaging, and differential diagnosis.

  1. Lab tests.

Throat culture: this is a test where the back of the throat is cleaned with a long cotton swab. The swab is then sent to the laboratory for analysis if there any presence of bacteria. The swab can often be used to test strep throat very quickly.

Also, sinusitis or the infection affecting the nasal passageway may be diagnosed using the sputum cultures or the throat.

Allergy testing: if the symptoms show that you are suffering from a sore throat caused by allergy, the doctor will perform skin tests and blood tests to confirm this. A skin test involves a doctor making a small scratch on your body and expose you to an allergen to see if you react.

The test results of skin test can be obtained immediately while blood test result takes a while.

Medication trials: if it is suspected that acid reflux is the cause of your sore throat, a doctor may prescribe trials of the reflux treatment to see how you respond. This is also possible with allergies-an antihistamine medication can be prescribed to see if you react to it.

  • Differential diagnosis.

If you feel that you have a bump or lump that you can relate to your sore throat, a doctor will ascertain if it is a lymph node or something more serious. If it cannot be confirmed as a lymph node, the doctor will order a biopsy.

  • Imaging.

Medically imaging especially, ultrasounds, CT scans, and MRIs, are helpful in the diagnosis of the sore throat if the suspected cause is sinusitis, lump, or growth.

Another commonly used method of diagnosing acid reflux and related complications is EGD or esophagogastroduodenoscopy, or upper endoscopy. This procedure involves inserting a camera into the mouth to the throat to check the esophagus tissues for any problem. A test called barium swallow can also be used.

False negatives can occur, especially in the case of rapid strep tests. After the test is done, the culture is taken to the laboratory for further testing. You could still receive a call about the result.

Treatment of sore throats

There are few options available you can use to treat sore throats. Below are lifestyle treatments and possible medications you can try to treat throat pain.

  • Avoid smoke.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Use a humidifier.


There are various medication options to treat the underlying causes of sore throat and medications used in treating the actual sore throat symptoms.

Antibiotics- in case you are diagnosed with bacterial infections like strep throat, a doctor will start you with antibiotics immediately. The prescription may include a one-time shot or oral medications over a long period of time to completely help in throat pains remedy.

Ensure you inform your doctor about any allergic reactions towards certain medications because there are plenty of prescriptions your doctor can choose.

Acid reflux medications- acid reflux treatment can take time to heal; however, the earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the sooner sore throat symptoms will be resolved. Your doctor will start you on an H2 blocker trial or a proton pump inhibitor (PPI).

These medications are also available over the counter. Over-counter H2 blocker treatment includes Pepcid famotidine, while PPI includes omeprazole or Prilosec, Nexium (esomeprazole), and Prevacid (Lansoprazole).

Antihistamine- if you have allergic reactions to some things that trigger sore throats, you might need to start on antihistamines if you are not using one. Histamine is produced when your body contact allergens like pollen, dust chemicals, mold, or pet dander et al.

If produced, histamine causes painful body sensation; therefore, taking antihistamine drugs cetirizine (Zyrtec), Allegra (fexofenadine), or Claritine (Loratidine) will help treat sore throats symptoms related to allergies.

Despite the reasons you are feeling throat pains, several treatments are available to help you control the intensity of the pain. NSAIDs such as naproxen and ibuprofen, Aspirin, and Tylenol are some of the most effective in pain associated with sore throats symptoms.

Your doctor may recommend glucocorticoids if you are experiencing severe throat pains causing difficulty in swallowing and breathing. Besides, you can use over counter medications like throat lozenges and throat spray to help relieve pain during the early stage of the distress.

Alternative and complementary medications

To help you stay hydrated, you may want to drink some caffeine-free tea. Though there is little proof supporting this, you can try adding tea with pectin, honey, or glycerin.

These elements are also known as demulcents and help relieve irritations in the oral mucous membrane and create and add a soothing coat in the mouth.

Additionally, a commercial product called throat coat contains elm bark, licorice, dry aqueous extract, and marshmallow roots. Small studies have shown a significant decrease in pain 30 minutes after taking a throat coat.

Though there are many inconsistent findings supporting some Chinese herbs and acupuncture, you will likely come across testimonials stating the contrary. Therefore it is essential to discuss with a professional doctor before opting for herbal treatments, especially if you are to use them alongside the prescribed medications.

Prevention measures of sore throats.

The best and effective way of preventing sore throats is by avoiding the viruses and bacteria that cause them by maintaining thorough hygiene. Follow the steps below to stay away from getting sore throats.

  • Handwashing.-thorough hand washing with clean, running water and soap for 30 seconds can significantly reduce the chances of getting the infection. Ensure you clean your fingers and nails moving up to the upper side of your hand. Use hand sanitizers to help you achieve this if you are not close to water and soap.
  • If you are experiencing acid reflux, you may want to consider a weight loss lifestyle to help you reduce sore throat symptoms and prevent the possibility of long-term throat complications.
  • In case of an allergy, you should discuss the long-term use of nasal or oral allergy medications with your doctor. Another great option may be immunotherapy.

Other prevention measures you can try out include.

  • Avoid contact with skin people.
  • Avoid sharing drinking glasses, utensils, or food.
  • Do not touch public phones and then your face area, and avoid drinking directly from a fountain.
  • Do regular cleaning of your telephones, computer keyboards, and TV remotes. Clean your hotel room materials like phones and remotes when traveling.
  • Cough or sneeze inside your elbow or on tissue paper and dispose of it correctly.

When to see a doctor

Continuous throat pain without a clear cause should be assessed by a physician to eliminate any severe causes that can lead to chronic health complications. In case you have infection-related throat pain, you will have symptoms like cough, fever, sore muscles, or fatigue.

It can be hard to see the difference in viral and bacterial throat pains at home since strep throat can aggravate to a severe condition if left untreated after a long period. Get in touch with a doctor if you are in doubt of the infection.

Throat pains characterized by rashes are often a sign of bacterial infections. It would be best if you saw a doctor immediately after you are experiencing such symptoms. Severe swelling and extreme pains of the tonsils are also significant concerns you need to see a doctor.

Sore throats symptoms accompanied by postnasal drip are rarely a serious or an emergent condition than swelling and painful tonsils. However, suppose symptoms refuse to go away after seven to ten days. In that case, you need to visit a doctor to diagnose the underlying cause.

While it is not considered an emergency, throat pain that becomes worse in the morning and has symptoms like heartburn or stomach pain should be immediately evaluated by a physician. General Doctors can diagnose acid reflux problems and provide appropriate action.

The conditions below are actual emergencies that require you to call 911 or visit an emergency room. If you are experiencing throat pains that are accompanied by:


A sore throat is a painful, scratchy, and dry feeling in the throat, making people uncomfortable. Most of them are not emergencies and can go away on their own or get treated safely if diagnosed early.

Sore throats symptoms are caused by several underlying factors ranging from injuries to health complications and even environmental factors. Sore throats attack people of all ages with bacterial infection causing strep is common among children of three to fifteen years.

While it can be prevented by avoiding exposure to risk factors like smoking tobacco, irritant chemical, contact with allergens if you are allergic to things like smoke and dust or pollen, there are treatments available in hospitals and over-counter.

It is recommended that you see a doctor if you are experiencing throat pains accompanied by difficulty breathing, persistent drooling, or inability to swallow.