The common symptom of a sore throat is the feeling of throat pain and discomfort, which often is worsened by swallowing or while talking.
- Most sore throats are caused by viruses or mechanical causes (such as mouth breathing) and can be treated successfully at home.
- Sore throat symptoms include pain, burning, or scratching sensations at the back of the throat, pain when swallowing, and tenderness in the neck. In addition to a sore throat, other common signs and symptoms may include:
- Home remedies for a sore throat include:
- Gargling with salt water
- Throat sprays or lozenges (Do not give lozenges to young children because they are a choking hazard.)
- Any sore throat that has a rapid onset and is associated with a fever or tenderness of the front of the neck may be serious and should be seen by a doctor.
- Any sore throat that causes difficulty swallowing (not just pain with swallowing) or breathing should be seen by a doctor.
- Any sore throat that lasts for more than a week should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
- If you are pregnant and your sore throat symptoms are severe or do not resolve in three days, seek medical attention.
- Seek medical care immediately if you have a sore throat and are unable to take your medications, have heart palpitations, are lightheaded, or your tongue or lips swell.
What causes a sore throat?
There are several different causes of sore throats.
Viral infections: Viruses are the most common cause of sore throats. Several different viruses can cause common colds and upper respiratory infections and include:
Bacterial infections: Less common causes of bacterial infections that cause sore throats include:
Rarely, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), for example, gonorrhea and chlamydia, can cause a sore throat.
Toxins/Irritants: Many substances can cause sore throats, for example:
- Cigarette smoke
- Air pollution
- Noxious airborne chemicals
- Medical conditions: Health problems, can cause sore throats, for example:
- Intentional or unintentional ingestion: Certain substances, for example, bleach, can cause a sore throat.
- Trauma/Injury: Any direct injury to the throat or neck area can cause a sore throat.
- Foreign body: Sore throats can be caused by foreign bodies stuck in the throat, for example, a bone or piece of food.
- Excessive yelling or screaming: The throat and larynx can cause sore throats due to screaming or excessive yelling.
What are the differences between sore throat vs. strep throat?
- Sore throat is a generic term used to describe the symptom of pain or discomfort in the throat. Usually, bacteria, viruses, trauma, and environmental toxins cause throat pain and its associated symptoms and signs. However, not all cases of sore throat are necessarily strep throat.
- Strep throat is a bacterial infection of the throat and tonsils (tonsilitis). Strep throat is specifically caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. Diagnosis of the cause of strep throat, and the characteristic signs and symptoms, laboratory tests help diagnose the cause of strep throat. Two common tests are used to diagnose the cause of strep throat,
11 Signs and symptoms of a sore throat
The signs and symptoms of a sore throat vary depending on the underlying cause. However, the common symptom of a sore throat is the feeling of throat pain and discomfort, which often is worsened by swallowing or while talking. Some people may complain of a scratchy or dry sensation in their throat as well.
Most sore throats are caused by viral infections. In addition to throat pain, common signs and symptoms of a sore throat include:
- Fever and/or chills
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Body aches
- Runny nose or nasal congestion
- Lack of appetite
- Redness and/or swelling of the tonsils and back of the throat
- White patchy areas on the tonsils (exudate)
- Swollen and/or tender lymph nodes in the neck
- A muffled or hoarse voice
Distinguishing between a sore throat caused by a virus and strep throat can be challenging; however, certain signs and symptoms often can help differentiate between the two. Usually, people with strep throat have signs and symptoms that include red swollen tonsils with white patches (exudate). Sore throats cause fever and swollen tender lymph nodes in the neck, without the symptoms that usually accompany a cold caused by a virus.