A sore throat is a painful, dry, or scratchy feeling in the throat. Pain in the throat is one of the most common symptoms. It accounts for more than 13 million visits to doctor’s offices each year. Most sore throats are caused by infections, or by environmental factors like dry air. Although a sore throat can be uncomfortable, it’ll usually go away on its own.
Click on Chronic Pharyngitis (Sore Throat), Strep Throat, Tonsillitis, or Tonsil Stones (Tonsilloliths) on the menu below to start the video.
Sore throats are divided into types, based on the part of the throat they affect:
- Pharyngitis affects the area right behind the mouth.
- Tonsillitis is swelling and redness of the tonsils, the soft tissue in the back of the mouth.
- Laryngitis is swelling and redness of the voice box, or larynx.
Causes of sore throats range from infections to injuries. Here are eight of the most common sore throat causes.
- Colds, the flu and other viral infections
- Strep throat and other bacterial infections
- Dry air
- Smoke, chemicals and other irritants
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
The symptoms of a sore throat can vary depending on what caused it. A sore throat can feel:
It may hurt more when you swallow or talk. Your throat or tonsils might also look red. Sometimes, white patches or areas of pus will form on the tonsils. These white patches are more common in strep throat than in a sore throat caused by a virus.
Along with the sore throat, you can have symptoms like:
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Hoarse voice
- Body aches
- Appetite loss
- Trouble swallowing
- Swollen glands in the neck
Most sore throats can be treated at home. Warm liquids or frozen foods feel soothing to the throat. A humidifier can moisturize a dry throat. Most sore throats get better on their own, within a few days. Bacterial infections like strep throat need to be treated with antibiotics. See a doctor for severe symptoms like trouble swallowing or breathing, a stiff neck, or a high fever.
Chronic or recurrent sore throats often need a consultation and in-depth examination in the office. With the consultation/examination, a plan for treatment can be formulated.