How do you make it feel better?
You wake up in the morning and notice that your throat is dry and it hurts to swallow. After having your morning cup of coffee, you realize that your throat doesn’t hurt as bad, but still feels irritated. It continues to feel this way all day and the next morning when you wake up. What is going on? How can you make your throat stop hurting?
A sore throat is when you have pain or irritation in your throat that usually gets worse after you swallow. The most common cause of a sore throat is a viral infection and is called pharyngitis. Some viral illnesses that can result in a sore throat are the common cold, flu, mononucleosis, measles, chicken pox and croup. Another possible of cause of a sore throat is a bacterial infection, usually streptococcus, and is called strep throat. Other causes can include allergies, dryness from spending time in indoor heated environments, exposure to irritants in the air, muscle strain from yelling or talking too loudly, gastroesophageal reflux, HIV and tumors. Children are more likely to develop sore throats than adults and are more susceptible to having strep throat. Exposure to tobacco smoke, allergens or chemicals irritants increases your chances of having a sore throat. Also having chronic/frequent sinus infections, a weakened immune system or spend a significant amount of time in close quarters places you at a greater risk of developing a sore throat.
Symptoms of a sore throat can include pain in your throat that can worsen after swallowing or talking, scratchy sensation, difficulty swallowing, swollen/painful glands in your neck/jaw, tonsils that are red/swollen, white patches/pus on your tonsils and a hoarse/muffled voice. Since a sore throat is caused by a virus or bacteria, you might also have a fever, cough, runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, body aches, headache and nausea/vomiting. If you have a sore throat and have difficulty opening your mouth, pain in your joints, earache, rash, blood in your spit/phlegm, fever > 101°F, hoarseness lasting over two weeks, lump in your neck, sore throats that recur frequently, then you should seek medical attention. If you have a sore throat and have difficulty swallowing/breathing or notice unusual drooling in a child (typically indicates that the child can’t swallow), then seek emergency medical assistance.
A sore throat from a viral infection doesn’t require treatment because it will clear up on its own in five to seven days. It can be helpful to take over-the-counter medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to relieve pain or fever. However, a sore throat from a bacterial infection requires antibiotics. It is essential to take all of the antibiotics as prescribed because if you don’t finish them, it can make the infection worse or it can spread to other parts of your body. If children don’t finish an antibiotic treatment, they have a higher chance of acquiring rheumatic fever or serious kidney inflammation. For either type of sore throat, it is key to get plenty of rest and talk as minimally as possible in order to limit the amount of irritation. Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeinated products to prevent dehydration. Warm liquids, like broth or caffeine-free tea, can help soothe your throat. Some people have more relief after having something cold, like a popsicle. Gargling with saltwater (add ¼ to ½ a teaspoon of salt to 4-8oz of warm water) is also helpful in soothing your throat. Sucking on lozenges or hard candy can provide a reprieve from the pain. Don’t give them to children under the age of 4 since they could choke on them. Humidifying the air in your home with a cool mist humidifier can help reduce the amount of dry air you are exposed to. Avoid things that could irritate your throat, such as cigarette smoke or cleaning products, especially those that emit strong fumes.
The best way to avoid having a sore throat is to avoid the germs that cause them. You can do this by having good hygiene habits. The number one thing to do is to wash your hands thoroughly, especially before eating and after using the toilet, coughing or sneezing. If possible, cough or sneeze into a tissue that you can throw away. If you don’t have a tissue available, use the crease of your elbow. If you don’t have access to a sink, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a good substitute. Avoid close contact with people who are sick and don’t share food, drinking glasses or utensils with others. Don’t allow public phones or drinking fountains to touch your mouth. Be sure to regularly disinfect telephones, television remotes and computer keyboards. If you are traveling, this is especially important to do in your hotel room.
Having a sore throat is not fun, but there are ways to treat and prevent it. If you have any questions or concerns, please speak with your doctor. If you would like more information, please visit MedlinePlus’s Sore Throat page at https://medlineplus.gov/sorethroat.html