7 most searched questions about a sore throat - answered!

Written by Sai Pragna Chagarla, Staff Writer – Hola Health
Medically reviewed by Dr. Nelson Lau - MBBS FRACGP

Sore throat, also known as pharyngitis, is a common condition characterised by inflammation of the pharynx, the back part of the throat, which can result from various causes, including viral and bacterial infections, environmental factors, and other health issues. This inflammation makes the throat red, swollen, painful and difficult to talk or swallow any form of food or liquid. 1 in 10 Australians visit their primary health care services complaining of sore throat each year. The generic symptoms of sore throat include:

  1. Pain and discomfort in the throat
  2. Hoarse voice and difficulty speaking.
  3. Difficulty in swallowing food or drink.
  4. Swelling and redness in the throat with white patches of pus
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Causes of Sore Throat

Sore throats are often caused by infections such as:

Viral Infections: Most sore throats are caused by viral infections, such as the common_cold, flu, Covid-19, or glandular fever. These infections can inflame the throat tissues, leading to pain and discomfort.

Bacterial Infections: Bacterial infections like streptococcus can also cause sore throats. Strep throat is a common bacterial infection that requires medical attention and treatment with antibiotics.

Environmental Factors: Dry air, irritants like smoke or pollutants, and allergens can contribute to throat irritation and soreness.

Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD): GORD can cause stomach acid to flow back into the oesophagus, leading to irritation and a sore throat.

Other health factors such as mouth ulcers or allergies can also cause sore throat. 

Now that we have our sore throat basics, let us find answers to the 7 most searched questions on the internet:

1. What is a Strep Throat?

It is often tough to find out whether a sore throat is caused by a virus or a bacterium. Strep throat is an infection caused by the bacteria Streptococcus Pyogenes and has some distinctive symptoms such as:  

  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Rash and fever
  • Abdominal pain or Vomiting

2. What should I know about Sore Throats in children or infants?

Children who can speak will often let us know their difficulty with swallowing or pain. Babies on the other hand should be watched for symptoms such as taking less milk or fluid, eating less food than usual, having other symptoms such as a runny nose, fever, and ear pain if the sore throat is caused by a virus.

If the child has a strep throat, one should also watch out for swollen glands or tender lumps in the neck, swollen red tonsils, a rash, or vomiting, and should immediately visit a doctor if these signs show up.

3. When should I visit a doctor for my Sore Throat?

For adults, usually the sore throat, especially when caused by a virus, will subside in 2-7 days. If the sore throat lasts longer than 7 days or is accompanied by the following symptoms, one should consult a doctor immediately:

  • Swollen neck or stiff neck
  • Trouble breathing or rapid breathing along with noise.
  • Pain in the arms or legs
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Lips (or skin around the lips) turns blue.
  • Cold/discoloured hands or feet even when the weather is warm or when the patient has a fever.
  • Has strep throat-like symptoms.
  • Could have Covid-19 symptoms.
Children older than 3 years old should be taken to a doctor if:
  • The sore throat lasts more than two days.
  • Taking little or no water or food due to difficulty in swallowing
  • Large tender lumps on their neck
  • Has skin rashes or bruising.
  • Is snoring more than usual.

Babies or infants should be taken to a doctor as soon as possible to understand what causes the sore throat and find the underlying cause of the problem before it gets complicated due to their weak immune systems. 

4. Does hay fever cause Sore Throats?

Sore throats can be caused by allergens such as pollen. When a person with allergies encounters triggers, they can experience postnasal drip (mucous draining down the back of the throat), which can irritate and inflame the throat. So, yes, Hay fever can also cause sore throat

5. How to get rid of a Sore Throat quickly?

Sore Throat is usually caused either by a virus or a bacterium. There is no quick fix to remove the sore throat completely but there are many ways you can relieve the symptoms and have a comfortable journey towards getting better. They are:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, such as water, herbal teas, and broths, to keep the throat moist and soothe irritation.
  • Gargling with warm salt water can help reduce swelling and provide relief. Mix one teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle several times a day.
  • Over-the-counter throat lozenges and sprays can temporarily numb the throat, providing relief from pain. Check with a doctor or a pharmacist before giving them to children. Get those medicines delivered to your doorstep with Hola Health.
  • Humidify the Air
  • Rest Your Voice: Limiting vocal strain by resting your voice can aid in the healing process. Take a day off especially if your work requires you to strain your throat. 
  • Avoid smoking or second-hand smoke.

6. Can honey soothe my Sore Throat?

Honey is long known for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Some studies also suggest that Honey reduces the production of mucus secretion hence lessens the irritation on the throat and soothes it. It is not a cure but a natural remedy that can alleviate the symptoms temporarily. Care should be taken that honey should not be given to babies less than 1 year old and infants if only suggested by the doctor.

7. What is chronic pharyngitis or recurring Sore Throat or a persistent sore throat?

Most sore throats should get better by 7 days but what if the sore throat persists for a period of weeks or months? This is chronic pharyngitis or recurring sore throat which sometimes does not clear up even after using a course of antibiotics. This can occur due to smoking, constant exposure to allergens, acid reflux, environmental pollutants, infection or in rare cases a throat cancer.

While a sore throat can be a discomforting experience, it is often a temporary condition that can be managed with home remedies. However, it is crucial to pay attention to the severity and duration of symptoms, as persistent or severe cases may require medical intervention. Taking preventive measures, such as staying hydrated and practising good hygiene, can also help reduce the risk of developing a sore throat. If in doubt, consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.  
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Reference

  1. BMJ Clin Evid. 2014; 2014: 1509. » Paracetamol (acetaminophen) to reduce symptoms of acute infective sore throat Published online 2014 Mar. Reference Link
  2. Sore Throat – Health Direct: Reference Link
  3. Sore Throat – CDC: Reference Link
  4. Sore Throat – The royal children’s hospital Melbourne: Reference Link
  5. The Sydney’s Childrens hospital network: Reference Link
  6. RACGP-Hay fever or COVID? GPs (General Practitioner) on alert as spring brings allergies: Reference Link
  7. The university of Queensland: Reference Link
  8. Choosing wisely Australia – Coughs, colds, and sore throat: Reference Link
  9. Honey for treatment of cough in children-Ran D Goldman: Reference Link
  10. RACGP – A persistent sore throat: Reference Link

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Disclaimer

This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. For emergencies please immediately contact 000.