Having a sore throat is very common and it’s believed that virus infections are responsible for up to 95% of cases in adults. Although it can be uncomfortable, a sore throat doesn’t normally require any specific treatment and usually disappears on its own. Mr Prince Modayil, an expert ENT specialist in London, explains to our readers why a sore throat develops and how you can soothe the pain.
What are the symptoms of a sore throat?
The symptoms of a sore throat can develop gradually or suddenly and include pain or a scratchy sensation in the throat. Often, this is accompanied by the following symptoms:
- pain when swallowing
- a cough
- a high fever
- swollen neck glands
- bad breath
- earache (referred pain)
What are the causes of a sore throat?
When you develop a sore throat, it isn’t always that obvious what is causing it. Most of the time though, it’s usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection, such as:
- upper respiratory tract infection or ﬂu
- tonsillitis (includes quinsy)
- laryngitis (includes epiglottitis & supraglottitis)
- bacterial streptococcal throat infection (strep throat)
- gastro-oesophageal reflux disease
What helps a sore throat?
Those with a sore throat usually take ibuprofen and/or paracetamol to relieve the pain. Paracetamol is better for children and for those who can't take ibuprofen. Aspirin is also a type of pain relief medicine that you may decide to use, but this should never be taken by children under 16.
There also some simple home treatments to help soothe a sore throat, such as drinking plenty of cool or warm fluids and avoiding very hot drinks. Also, to not aggravate the inflammation, eat only cool, soft foods and avoid smoking and smoky places. Finally, gargling a homemade mouthwash of warm, salty water and sucking on lozenges and ice can help reduce pain.
Some parents like to give their children ice cream or ice lollies, but it’s very important not to give young children anything small and hard to suck on due to the risk of choking.
Why do I keep getting sore throats?
There are several reasons why you might be having a persistent or reoccurring sore throat.
It’s common for people to have problems with their tonsils. Contracting tonsillitis frequently can happen to people who have unhealthy tonsils and it often requires treatment with antibiotics.
Most of the time, our immune system protects us against infections, but for some people who have weaker immune systems, it can make them more prone to infections.
Being stressed can cause you to develop a sore throat. It can affect your immune system and cause you to feel run down, making you more predisposed to infection.
Smoking and irritants
Outdoor, and indoor air pollution from traffic or chemicals can irritate and cause a sore throat. Smoking, as well as excessive alcohol use, is also a cause of a sore throat.
Having an allergy to pollen, moulds, dust and pets can irritate the throat, so taking antihistamines or avoiding allergens is the best way to get rid of this type of sore throat.
Postnasal drip is when there is a build-up of thick mucus at the back of your throat. Having this condition can cause a sore throat and additional problems swallowing.
When should I see a doctor about a sore throat?
A sore throat normally lasts for around four to five days. If it lasts longer than a week then you should see your GP.
If you develop a severe sore throat and have difficulty swallowing, or you make a high-pitched sound when you breathe (stridor) you must get urgent advice or medical care. This is also the case if you find yourself drooling or you have swelling in your neck or face.
Mr Prince Modayil is one of London's leading ENT specialists. To book an appointment with him, visit his profile and check his availability.