What is a sore throat? Its symptoms, causes and treatment

Experiencing soreness in the throat is a very common symptom and one that takes millions of people to see a doctor every year. Most sore throats are uncomfortable but will clear up on their own. There are three main types of sore throat - laryngitis, which affects the voice box or larynx, tonsillitis - swelling and redness of the tonsils - and pharyngitis, which is when the area just behind the mouth is affected.

What are the symptoms of a sore throat?

Not all sore throats will feel the same but most will include some, or all, of the following symptoms: a scratchy feeling, a burning sensation, rawness and dryness, the throat may also feel tender and irritated. Depending on what caused the sore throat it could come with a range of other symptoms, including white patches on the throat and tonsils if the sore throat is caused by a virus, a fever and chills, sneezing, coughing, headaches, trouble swallowing and appetite loss.

The most common causes of a sore throat

  • Irritants. Smoke, chemicals and air pollution are just some of the irritants that can be responsible for a sore throat after exposure to them.
  • Viral infections. Colds, flu and other viral infections account for around 90% of all sore throats.
  • Bacterial infections. This could be tonsilitis, strep throat or a sexually transmitted infection such as chlamydia.
  • Being in a dry environment. Particularly in the winter months when the heating is constantly on, dry air can cause issues where sore throats are concerned.
  • A physical impact. For example, getting hit in the neck or spending too much time yelling.
  • Allergies. An allergic reaction to pet dander, pollen etc causes the body to create mucus and this can drip down the throat and cause soreness.
  • Tumours. It’s less common but tumours on the voice box, throat and tongue also cause a sore throat.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux. This causes acid from the stomach to rise back into the oesophagus and can cause soreness.

How to treat a sore throat

Not every sore throat requires medical treatment but there are some more serious symptoms that indicate that seeing a doctor soon may be essential. These include where you are having trouble swallowing or breathing, a painful or stiff neck or you’re struggling to open your mouth. A very high fever, earache or a sore throat that lasts for a week or more are also a good indicator that you need to get some medical help. However, if you don’t have any of the more serious symptoms then you can treat your sore throat at home with:

  • Over the counter pain relief
  • A throat spray with a numbing antiseptic
  • Resting your voice until your throat feels recovered
  • Drinking warm liquids to soothe the sore throat
  • Using a cool-mist humidifier to add moisture to the air
  • Gargling with warm water and half a teaspoon of salt

Sore throats are common and although they can be painful are usually nothing to worry about but be sure to visit the Harley Street ENT Clinic in London for a sore throat diagnosis.

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The Harley Street ENT clinic in London can provide all of the care that you need when you have an ear, nose, throat or balance problem. We ensure that you can get all of the right tests, treatments and advice in one convenient place.