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A sore throat can feel unpleasant, painful and cause swallowing difficulty sometimes. Most sore throats are caused by an infection, but there are other reasons for why your throat may feel scratchy.
Pain in the throat can be a sign of an infection like the cold or the flu. In most cases, it clears up within a week but if your sore throat is accompanied by fever consider consulting your doctor for advice.
Are you finding it difficult to swallow? Does it feel like there’s something stuck at the back of your throat? Do you have a hoarse voice and your throat is scratchy?
These are common signs of a sore throat. When you have a throat that hurts, you’ll want to know what caused it. That way, you can effectively treat it and return to pain-free eating and drinking quickly.
What are the top three symptoms of a sore throat?
The signs and symptoms of a sore throat vary depending on what’s causing the condition. But the top signs that your throat is sore usually include:
1. A scratchy feeling at the back of your throat
2. Pain in the throat or at the back of the mouth
3. Finding it difficult to swallow
Sometimes an itch at the back of your throat goes away when you sip some water. Other times it can linger and cause severe pain. Watch out for these three signs of sore throat.
What are sore throat symptoms?
A sore and painful throat will usually feel inflamed and irritable. Sore throats often accompany the common cold or the flu, but they can be signs of a more serious infection like strep throat. Watch out for these symptoms.
Most people notice that their throat is sore when it’s painful to swallow or they feel like something is stuck at the back of their throat and scratching agains the lining of the throat.
Common signs of a sore throat include:
Although most sore throats go away with home treatment within one weeki and are manageable with pain medication like Paracetamol (Panadol), you should visit a doctor if your sore throat persists. Seek medical help if you notice:
What causes a sore throat?
There are many different causes for a sore throat— from colds to a bacterial or viral infection. To decide on the best sore throat treatment, it’s important to understand the underlying causes for what’s causing you pain.
Sore throats are incredibly common and may affect people multiple times a year. Approximately 10% of patients visiting a doctor complain of recurring scratchy throat2.
In the majority of cases, a throat infection is caused by viruses or bacteria. It’s estimated that viruses cause around 85% of throat infections in adults and 70% in children, while bacteria are to blame for 30% of sore throats3.
But what’s the difference between viral infection and bacteria?
Viral infections that can cause painful swallowing include colds, the flu, measles, Covid-19, and chickenpox.
Bacteria can cause strep throat. Infection with the streptococcus bacteria is responsible for 5% to 15% of painful throats in adults6.
Besides a painful throat, other symptoms of a strep infection include:
If you suspect strep throat, it’s best to go see a doctor. They can perform a throat swab to determine if bacteria are present. Where strep is caused by bacterial infection, you may need to take antibiotics to get rid of the infection5.
A sore throat that accompanies a sinus infection is a special case, because it could be caused by either viruses or bacteria. If you have a sinus infection that doesn’t go away after two weeks, it’s best to see a doctor.
Other causes for a sore throat are6:
How to treat a sore throat10?
The right sore throat treatment depends on the underlying causes. In most cases, home remedies like sipping warm, soothing drinks work well. To reduce inflammation and the pain, you can take an over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or paracetamol.
In many cases, a sore throat can be treated using home remedies. The following tend to relieve the pain:
A sore throat can make you feel rotten and sometimes home treatments aren’t enough. When your throat is particularly painful, you can try a pain medicine like Panadol for sore throat. The medicine in Panadol has been shown to provide effective relief from the pain of a sore throat8.
Preventive measures for other causes of sore throat include12:
|Allergies||Over-the-counter allergy medication (pills or nose spray)|
|Smoking||Stopping smoking has a wide range of health benefits. You can try nicotine gums and patches to wean yourself off cigarettes.|
|Air pollution / Chemicals||Wear protective masks and gloves to avoid inhalation of toxic or harmful gases.|
|Dry air||Get a humidifier and sip fluids more frequently throughout the day.|
|Injury||If it’s a small cut, disinfect the wound by gargling with water and salt. In cases of injury or trauma to the throat, see a doctor.|
|Acid reflux||Antacids are available as over-the-counter tablets or on prescription if your acid reflux is severe.|
1. Parmet S. Sore Throat. JAMA. 2004;291(13):1664. doi:10.1001/jama.291.13.1664 [Accessed 13 November 2020]
2. Georgalas CC, Tolley NS, Narula PA. Tonsillitis. BMJ Clinical Evidence. 2014;2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4106232/ [Accessed 13 November 2020]
3. Worrall G. Acute sore throat. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien. 2011;57(7):791-794. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3135445/ [Accessed 13 November 2020]
4. Group A Strep. Published 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/groupastrep/diseases-hcp/strep-throat.html [Accessed 13 November 2020]
5. CDC. Sore Throat. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published August 30, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/sore-throat.html [Accessed 13 November 2020]
6. Paul IM, Beiler J, McMonagle A, Shaffer ML, Duda L, Berlin CM. Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine. 2007;161(12):1140-1146. doi:10.1001/archpedi.161.12.1140 [Accessed 13 November 2020]
7. How to reduce the spread of antibiotic resistance European Office, World Health Organization. https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/disease-prevention/antimicrobial-resistance/news/news/2012/11/antibiotic-resistance-a-growing-threat/how-to-reduce-the-spread-of-antibiotic-resistance [Accessed 17 Mar 21]
8. Kenealy T. Sore throat. BMJ Clinical Evidence. 2014;2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3948435/ [Accessed 13 November 2020]
10. Sore throat causes and treatments. www.nhsinform.scot. https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/ears-nose-and-throat/sore-throat
12. Seven Tips to Help You Prevent a Sore Throat. ENT Health. Accessed December 10, 2020. https://www.enthealth.org/be_ent_smart/seven-tips-to-help-you-prevent-a-sore-throat/