A sore throat is a sensation of discomfort, rawness or pain in the throat. It is particularly noticeable during swallowing. A sore throat is not a specific medical condition, but rather a symptom that can accompany many different types of illnesses.
Causes of Sore Throats
The main causes of sore throats are infections from viruses or bacteria. Specifically, the common cold is the most frequent trigger of a sore throat. Other viral infections that can cause sore throats as a symptom include the flu, croup, chicken pox and mononucleosis. Bacterial infections that lead to sore throats include strep throat, tonsillitis, sinusitis, ear infections and pneumonia. Also, acid reflux can contribute to the development of a sore throat.
Some sore throats are not indicative of an illness. They simply develop as a result of irritation caused by heat, dry air, exposure to irritants or straining the voice. Allergies are also a major cause of sore throats. Some sore throats can be a warning sign of a much more serious condition, like a tumor or an HIV infection, though this is far less common.
Treatment and Prevention
Most mild sore throats can be treated at home with over-the-counter pain relievers, warm tea, salt water gargling and plenty of rest. If the sore throat persists for more than five to seven days, or gets worse over time, then it’s worth a visit to a doctor. Often, the symptoms of a sore throat will pass by treating the underlying infection, like with antibiotics for strep throat.
Steps to prevent a sore throat include drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding smoking and other harsh chemicals and practicing good hygiene. Managing allergies through medication and avoiding allergens can also help to prevent sore throats.
SOURCES: American Academy of Pediatrics; American Academy of Otolarygology – Head and Neck Surgery