Sore Throat

A sore throat, also known as pharyngitis, is discomfort, pain, or scratchiness in the throat. It often makes it painful to swallow and sometimes tenderness in the neck. It is caused by swelling (inflammation) of the pharynx, which is in the back of the throat, between the tonsils and the voice box (larynx).

Sore throats are commonly a symptom of viral infection, as in the common cold. Bacterial infections can also cause sore throat, such as infection by Group A streptococcus which leads to strep throat.  Non infectious causes of sore throat include exposure to dry air, irritant and reflux of gastric acid.

Other symptoms that may accompany the sore throat include fever, runny nose, cough, headache, joint pain/ muscle aches, hoarse voice and swollen glands in the neck. These other symptoms will depend on what infection is causing your sore throat.

What you can do

Most sore throats are not serious and pass within three to seven days without the need for medical treatment (exception, streptococcal throat infection which needs to be treated with antibiotics).

The following tips may help your sore throat feel better:

  • Drink warm liquids such as lemon tea or tea with honey.
  • Gargle several times a day with warm salt water (1/2 tsp of salt in 1 cup water).
  • Drink cold liquids or suck on popsicles.
  • Suck on hard candies or throat lozenges. Caution: Lozenges and hard candy are a choking hazard for children. Avoid their use in young children.
  • A cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier can moisten and soothe a dry and painful throat.

When to see a doctor

For adults, consult a doctor when:

  • You develop a sore throat that is severe and persists more than a week
  • You have a high fever, swollen lymph nodes in your neck, or a rash
  • You have trouble breathing or having difficulty swallowing

For children, a doctor should be consulted if sore throat presents with one or more of the following:

  • Difficulty in swallowing or breathing
  • Excessive drooling in an infant or young child
  • Temperature ≥ 38.5ºC
  • Swelling of the neck
  • Unable or unwilling to drink or eat
  • Voice sounds muffled
  • Stiff neck or difficulty opening the mouth

How to prevent sore throat

Bacterial and viral infections are very contagious. Wash your hands (and your child's hands) frequently, and keep everyone in your home from sharing cups and utensils. Drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration. Avoid contact with people who have strep throat.  

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This article is for informational purposes, and is not a substitution for professional medical care.  The information is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, drug interactions or adverse effects. Health conditions in babies, children, elderly persons, persons with medical conditions, pregnant or breastfeeding women may need special care.  Do consult a healthcare professional for advice.  Before taking medications, read the instructions and precautions on the package carefully.   


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