Sore throat is painful, itchy and burning sensation that occurs in the back of your throat. It is more common in winter and monsoon months. There is usually nothing to worry about a sore throat. It heals within a week normally. The medical term for sore throat is pharyngitis.
Most of the cases of sore throat is due to virus and this resolves on its own due to our immunity. In some cases, the pharyngitis is caused by Streptococci bacteria, when you need antibiotics. Let us see what the symptoms are like.
The signs and symptoms of sore throat may vary in different persons depending on the cause.
- Painful throat
- Itchy or scratchy throat
- More pain while swallowing
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Swollen glands under the jaw or on either side of the neck
- Red tonsils or white patch on tonsils
- Change in voice
Sometimes the sore throat may be accompanied by more symptoms. This may be a sign of progression of infection.
- Thick phlegm
- Nose block
- Body aches and headache
- Nausea and vomiting
The most common cause of sore throat is some form of viral infection. They can be influenza, common cold, measles, chickenpox or infectious mononucleosis (mono). These are self-limited in normal people. We offer supportive treatment.
The most important bacteria is Streptococcus pyogenes (Group A hemolytic streptococci). The pharyngitis is then called a strep throat. The bacteria can cause complications in the heart and kidney if not treated with appropriate antibiotics. Some other bacteria also cause sore throat. We give antibiotics when we suspect bacterial infection. Diphtheria is quite common in tropical and developing countries.
Allergies to dust, pollen and molds can cause constant post nasal drip. The drip can irritate the mucosa of the throat causing soreness. Irritant gases, fumes, smokes, strong chemicals and polluted air can also result in a sore throat. Dry cold air in the winter season can dry up the mucus secretions in the throat producing pain and scratchy feeling. Excessive use of voice can strain the throat muscles producing the same effect. Acid reflux causes lump sensation and irritation in throat. Sometimes, a growth or tumor can result in throat pain.
The risk of developing pharyngitis is more if you smoke and drink. Smoking dries up the lining of throat in addition to reducing the surface immunity. The risk is greater in allergy and sinusitis patients. Children suffer sore throats more frequently than adults. Pharyngitis occurs more commonly in people of lower socioeconomic status due to overcrowding at homes and shelters. People who suffer from weak immunity like AIDS and cancer patients have more risk of developing throat pain.
How can you prevent sore throats?
There are a number of precautions which help reduce the risk of acquiring a sore throat. Avoiding smoking and reducing alcohol intake are among the foremost measures. Reducing exposure to dust, smoke, irritants in air and pollution help enormously. Drink plenty of water. Use a room humidifier if needed. Avoid exposing yourself to cold air or AC vent directly. Maintain the AC temperature at a comfortable level.
Avoid close contact with anyone who has flu or common cold. It is always better to not share drinks and food items. Keep vessels and towels separate. Use an alcohol based hand sanitizer whenever you can’t wash hands. Take care to wash hands for at least 15 to 20 seconds with sanitizing soap. Click here to find out about proper hand washing techniques. Regularly clean surfaces which are commonly touched, like telephones, door knobs and television remotes.
when to go to a doctor?
Although sore throat is pretty common, you must go to your ENT specialist if you have any of the below issues. If you have any doubt regarding your problem or how to proceed, do not hesitate to contact us.
- Difficulty in breathing
- Neck swelling
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Cough with sputum
- Swelling in face or neck
- Unrelenting fever
- Bleeding while coughing
- Blood in sputum
- Child is inactive or restless
- Joint pain
WHAT TO EXPECT IN ENT CLINIC?
The ENT will shine a torch into your throat or pass an endoscope to check in detail. The specialist will examine your nose and ears as well. Sometimes he may order blood tests. If you have had fever for long we need to check your blood indices. A throat swab may be taken to confirm whether it is streptococcus bacteria. A quick result may be obtained by staining. An Albert’s staining is done to check for Diphtheria. The treatment offered to you depends on the cause, whether it is bacterial or viral. If there is a severe infection with difficulty in breathing or pus formation you may be admitted into the hospital. Intravenously given drugs act swiftly and provide quick relief.
Viral infections are self limiting. Our body overcomes within five to seven days. In our practice, we offer supportive care and treatment to our patients. We give Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen for pain relief. The same affords relief from fever too. We prescribe mucus thinners if there is thick mucus. Allergies are taken care of with Cetrizine or Desloratidine. Some with associated nose block find nasal decongestants drops and steam very helpful.
Bacterial infections need appropriate antibiotics. In the Indian scenario, we take a swab in the first visit itself. We empirically start on amoxicillin antibiotic till the results of culture is available. Thereafter we change over to a more appropriate antibiotic if there is no improvement. Supportive measures to relieve fever, pain, nose block and irritation are provided here also.
When there is severe pain or difficulty in breathing or pus formation we may have to admit the patient. He is observed and given intravenous medicines which act faster. We monitor his vitals – blood pressure, temperature, pulse and respiratory rate. These practices are similar in every country. The specialists follow standard protocols. However, if you wish to get a second opinion, then, reach out to us at email@example.com
Like in our previous posts, we are including a section on home remedies in this as well. If you get a sore throat, then try the following
- Take abundant rest. Don’t strain or stress out.
- Drink plenty of fluids, preferably warm.
- You may drink tea without milk
- Avoid citrus fruits and bitter food items
- Use lozenges to soothe the throat
- Avoid smokes and drinks
- Wear a mask if going outside or for work
- Gargle with warm saline solution
- Humidify room air or inhale steam
We have tried bringing to you all you need to know about sore throat. It is a common problem and gets better within a few days. Sometimes it may cause a lot of discomfort and you would prefer medical attention. Do send us your feedback and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org