Sore Throat

A sore throat is usually due to acute tonsillitis or acute pharyngitis. On occasions acid reflux is the primary cause.

Acute tonsillitis affects mainly the sides of the throat and can be caused by viruses and/or bacteria. There is fever, halitosis, pain on swallowing, enlarged red inflamed tonsils with exudates, tender swollen neck glands and the patient feels generally sick and unwell. Acute pharyngitis, which affects the centre of the back of the throat as well as the sides, is usually caused by a virus. It tends to give milder symptoms and typically results in a URTI with nasal irritation and congestion. Glandular fever caused by the Epstein Barr virus is an exception, however, and causes symptoms like very severe tonsillitis.


Swab for microscopy and culture


Infections caused by bacteria or fungi require antimicrobial treatment, which varies depending on the specific infective organism. Acute infections result in the production of pus, which is commonly thick yellow-green in colour and may have an unpleasant smell. When an infection is seen or suspected, a sample is therefore sent for laboratory analysis.


After inserting a sterile tongue depressor, a fine sterile cotton bud probe is inserted into the throat and rubbed over the tissue to be sampled. It is then immediately removed for storage in preservative for transfer to the laboratory. Examination under the microscope (microscopy) by the Microbiologist enables the presence and type of infective organism to be diagnosed. Subsequently, growing the organism on a special gel (culture) and applying various drugs allows the specific antimicrobial agent required to kill the infective organisms to be determined.

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