A sore throat can be a very uncomfortable condition. More than 13 million doctor’s visits every year are the result of pain in the throat, making it one of the most common complaints among patients. Your sore throat may resolve on its own or may need further investigation – this is everything you need to know about how to deal with a sore throat if you suffer from one.
What does a sore throat feel like?
Most people describe it as a painful, scratchy sensation in the throat. It may feel raw, dry, tender, irritated or you may experience a burning feeling in your throat. Other symptoms that you may experience at the same time as a sore throat can include nasal congestion, a fever, a runny nose, a headache, a hoarse voice or trouble swallowing. There are generally three types of sore throat and these are categorised based on where in the throat you feel it most:
- Pharyngitis if the pain is in the area right behind the mouth
- Tonsillitis if the area affected is the soft part of the back of the mouth (the tonsils)
- Laryngitis if the affected area is your voice box or larynx
Why do you have a sore throat?
Many sore throats are caused by environmental factors and will simply resolve on their own. These are some of the most common causes of the sore throat.
- A cold, flu or virus. From COVID-19 to the common cold, a sore throat can be a symptom of a range of conditions that affect people of all ages. Chickenpox, measles and mumps are some of the other common viruses that have a sore throat as a symptom.
- A bacterial infection. From sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhoea to tonsillitis there are many bacterial infections that present with a sore throat as a symptom.
- Environmental issues. This could be something like an allergy to pet hair, pollen or grass or it could be the result of being in a dry air environment, for example an over heated room in winter.
- Irritation. Many sore throats are the result of irritation by chemicals or other substances, such as smoke (from a fire or tobacco smoke) or air pollution. Cleaning products and strong industrial chemicals can also result in a throat that feels irritated, scratchy and dry.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If you suffer from this condition then stomach acid is backed up into the oesophagus, burning the throat, which can make it feel really sore.
- An injury. Injuries to the throat can cause soreness, from getting punched to getting some food stuck in your throat and coughing energetically to free it.
- A tumour. It’s not a common cause for a sore throat but if you have a tumour in your voice box, throat or tongue this can create symptoms.
Many sore throats will clear up and improve over time with basic care such as gargling with warm water and salt. If you still have a sore throat after a week then it may be worth making an appointment with a doctor.
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