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Sore throat

A sore throat is discomfort, pain, or scratchiness in the throat. A sore throat often makes it painful to swallow.
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 illnesses.
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.

Causes-
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
    ("aphthous stomatitis").
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 rash.
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.

Risk factors-
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.
Symptoms-
  • 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 strep throat.
  • Signs of sore throat include the following:
         >>Pus on the surface of the tonsils (can happen with bacteria or viruses)
         >>
Redness of the oropharynx (the pharynx viewed though the mouth)
         >>
Tender neck glands (inflamed lymph nodes)
         >>
Drooling or spitting (swallowing becomes too painful)
         >>
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.

Diagnosis-
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.

Complications-
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 or chest.
  • 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.
Treatment-
A mild sore throat associated with cold or flu symptoms can be made more comfortable with the following remedies:
  • 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.
Role of Homoeopathy
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!

Prevention-
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 circumstances.
A cool mist vaporizer or humidifier can prevent some sore throats caused by breathing dry air with an open mouth.

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