Pharyngitis, also known as sore throat, is having discomfort, pain or scratchiness at the throat. Some might find it painful to swallow and feel tenderness at the neck area. It is caused by the swelling of the pharynx because of inflammation. The pharynx is located at the back of the throat, between the tonsils and the voice box (larynx).
Sore throats are commonly caused by viral infections. Bacterial infections can also cause sore throat, such as an infection by Group A Streptococcus, which leads to what is commonly known as “Strep throat”. Noninfectious causes of sore throat include being exposed to dry air or irritating substances and reflux of gastric acid into the throat area.
Other symptoms that may accompany the sore throat include:
- Runny nose
- Joint pain or muscle aches
- Hoarse voice, swollen glands in the neck
The presence of these symptoms will depend on the cause of your sore throat.
What you can do
Most sore throats are not serious and go away within three to seven days without the need for medicines. However, your doctor might give you antibiotics if they suspect a bacterial throat infection.
The following tips may help you feel better:
- Drink more fluids to ensure your body gets enough water. Warm water or tea can help soothe the throat. Drinking cold liquids or sucking on ice chips can help to relieve the pain, swelling and inflammation at the throat area.
- Gargle a few times a day with warm salt water (Mix half a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water)
- Suck on hard candies or throat lozenges to keep the throat moist. Avoid using lozenges and hard candies in young children as it can cause choking if not used properly.
- Using a cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier can moisten and soothe a dry and painful throat.
When to see a doctor
For adults, see a doctor when:
- You develop a sore throat that is very serious and lasts for more than a week
- You have a high fever
- The area near your neck and below your ears are swollen
- You develop a rash
- You have trouble breathing or having difficulty swallowing
For children, bring them to see a doctor if the sore throat comes with one or more of the following:
- Difficulty in swallowing or breathing
- A lot of drooling in an infant or young child
- A temperature of 38.5ºC or higher
- The area near the neck and below the ears are swollen
- The child is unable or unwilling to drink or eat
- The child’s voice sounds muffled
- The child has a stiff neck or has difficulty opening the mouth
How to prevent sore throat
- Bacterial and viral infections can spread to others easily. Wash your hands (and your child's hands) often. Try not to share cups and utensils among the family members staying at home
- Drink more water to prevent dehydration
- Avoid contact with people who have a condition called strep throat.
Updated in Nov 2018
This article does not take the place of talking to your doctor or pharmacist. People with special health needs such as babies, children below 12 year old, elderly and pregnant ladies should see a doctor instead of self-treatment. Always read the instructions and warnings on the package before taking any medicine.