A sore throat is discomfort, pain, or
scratchiness in the throat. A sore throat often makes it painful to
Sore throat, also called pharyngitis, is a painful inflammation of the
mucous membranes lining the pharynx. It is a symptom of many
conditions, but most often is associated with colds or influenza. Sore
throat may be caused by either viral or bacterial infections or
environmental conditions. Most sore throats heal without complications,
but they should not be ignored because some develop into serious
Strep throat is the most common bacterial cause of sore throat. Because
strep throat can occasionally lead to rheumatic fever, antibiotics are
given. Strep throat often includes a fever (greater than 101ºF), white,
draining patches on the throat, and swollen or tender lymph glands in
the neck. Children may have a headache and stomach pain.
A sore throat is less likely to be strep throat if it is a minor part
of a typical cold (with runny nose, stuffy ears, cough, and similar
symptoms). Strep can NOT be accurately diagnosed by looking at the
throat alone. It requires a laboratory test.
A sore throat can have many causes including:
1. Common viruses, and even the viruses that cause mononucleosis (mono)
and the flu, can
cause a sore throat. Some viruses can
also produce blisters in the mouth and throat
2. Breathing through the mouth can produce throat dryness and soreness.
3. Sinus drainage (post nasal drip) may cause a sore throat.
4. A sore throat can also be caused by bacteria. The two most common
bacteria to cause a
sore throat are Streptococcus (which
causes strep throat) and Arcanobacterium
haemolyticum. Arcanobacterium causes
sore throats mainly in young adults and is
sometimes associated with a fine red
5. Sore throat appearing after treatment with antibiotics,
chemotherapy, or other immune
-compromising medications may be due to
Candida, commonly known as "thrush."
6. A sore throat lasting for more than two weeks can be a sign of a
serious illness, such as
throat cancer or AIDS.
Although anyone can get a sore throat, some factors make more
susceptible to throat problems. These factors include:
- Age. Children and teens are most likely to develop sore
throats. Children are also more likely to have strep throat, the most
common bacterial infection associated with a sore throat.
- Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. Tobacco smoke,
whether primary or secondary, contains hundreds of toxic chemicals that
can irritate the throat lining.
- Allergies. Seasonal allergies or ongoing allergic reactions
to dust, molds or pet dander, are more likely to develop a sore throat
than are people who don't have allergies.
- Exposure to chemical irritants. Particulate matter in the
air from the burning of fossil fuels as well as common household
chemicals can cause throat irritation.
- Chronic or frequent sinus infections. Drainage from nose or
sinus infections can cause throat infections as well.
- Living or working in close quarters. Viral and bacterial
infections spread easily anywhere people gather - child care centers,
classrooms, offices, prisons and military installations.
- Poor hygiene. Washing hands carefully and often is the best
way to prevent many viral and bacterial infections.
- Lowered immunity. Common causes of lowered immunity include
diseases such as HIV and diabetes, treatment with steroids or
chemotherapy drugs - even stress, fatigue and poor diet.
>>Pus on the surface of the tonsils (can
happen with bacteria or viruses)
- Symptoms of sore throat throughout the body include fever,
headache, nausea, and malaise. These may be present with either a viral
or bacterial infection.
- Symptoms specific to the throat include pain with
swallowing for pharyngitis and a hoarse voice when laryngitis is
present. Cold viruses tend to cause more coughing and runny nose than
- Signs of sore throat include the following:
>>Redness of the oropharynx (the pharynx
viewed though the mouth)
>>Tender neck glands (inflamed lymph nodes)
>>Drooling or spitting (swallowing becomes
>>Difficulty breathing (inhaling can be
especially difficult when the passage through the pharynx or larynx
becomes too narrow for a normal stream of air)
>>Vesicles (bubbles of fluid on a red base)
in the oral cavity or oropharynx may indicate the presence of Coxsackie
virus or herpes simplex virus
- Two-thirds of people with strep throat have only redness
with no pus on the tonsils.
The doctor usually makes the diagnosis from the symptoms of the
disease, but occasionally a swab of the secretions of the throat and
possibly a blood sample are required to identify the cause.
Usually a sore throat causes no trouble and only lasts about a week,
but the following complications may arise:
- A secondary infection may occur in the middle ear, sinuses
- If the sore throat is due to a streptococcus infection,
there may be a rash (scarlet fever).
- An uncommon complication is a throat abscess that usually
occurs only on one side.
- In very rare cases, diseases like rheumatic fever or a
particular kidney disease (glomerulonephritis) may occur.
A mild sore throat associated with cold or flu symptoms can be made
more comfortable with the following remedies:
Role of Homoeopathy
- Increase liquid intake.
- Warm tea with honey is a favorite home remedy.
- Use a steamer or humidifier in bedroom.
- Gargle with warm salt water several times daily: ¼ tsp.
salt to ½ cup water.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers and other medications.
Homeopathic medicines are often effective in treating the acute
symptoms of a sore throat, though professional constitutional care is
usually necessary to cure chronically recurring sore throats. We
specialize in both!
Clean your hands frequently, especially before eating. This is a
powerful way to help prevent many sore throat infections. You might
avoid some sore throats by reducing contact with people with sore
throats, but often these people are contagious even before they have
symptoms, so this approach is less effective.
Not too long ago, tonsils were commonly removed in an attempt to
prevent sore throats. This is no longer recommended in most
A cool mist vaporizer or humidifier can prevent some sore throats
caused by breathing dry air with an open mouth.
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