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Sore Throat

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Sore Throat: Causes and Treatments

Sore throats are a common symptom characterized by discomfort, pain, or scratchiness in the throat. A sore throat can range from mild irritation to severe pain and can distract from your everyday life.
 
By understanding the causes and most effective remedies for sore throats, you’ll be prepared to recover from a sore throat faster.


Sore Throat Causes

“Even something as simple as a sore throat can have many causes,” says Nic Pasheek, PA-C, WellNow’s Regional Education Director. “It could be an infection, injury, voice strain, allergies, or irritants in the air. By taking the time to diagnose properly, we can then provide better treatment and get you feeling better.”

A sore throat can be a symptom of the common cold, the flu (influenza), and COVID-19. It's important to note that while these illnesses can share symptoms, including a sore throat, they are caused by different viruses.

A healthcare provider may check for redness, swelling, and pus in the throat, as well as swollen lymph nodes in the neck. The presence of these symptoms may indicate that your sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection that could require antibiotics. In some cases, a rapid strep test or throat culture may also be done to determine if you have strep throat.

There are several reasons why someone might experience a sore throat without having a viral or bacterial illness. Reasons for a sore throat can include allergies and environmental irritants, breathing dry air, straining or overusing your voice, acid reflux, throat injury, and dryness caused by sleeping with your mouth open.

The duration of a sore throat can vary depending on the underlying cause and individual factors. In general, a sore throat caused by a viral infection such as the common cold or flu typically lasts for about three to seven days, although it can sometimes persist for up to two weeks.


If the sore throat is due to a bacterial infection such as strep throat, it may last seven to ten days or longer. However, with appropriate antibiotic treatment, symptoms usually begin to improve within a few days.


Sore throats caused by other factors such as allergies, dry air, or irritants typically resolve within a few days to a week with appropriate management and avoidance of triggers.

Sore Throat Treatments

Some sore throats can be treated at home with herbal remedies, self-care, and over-the-counter medications. Medical providers can often help a sore throat heal faster, and treat underlying causes that can’t be remedied at home.

There are several steps you can take to help alleviate a sore throat quickly:


Stay hydrated:
Drink plenty of fluids, such as water, herbal tea, or warm broth, to keep your throat moist and prevent dehydration.


Gargle with salt water:
Mix warm water with a teaspoon of salt and gargle several times a day to help reduce inflammation and soothe the throat.


Use lozenges or hard candy:
Sucking on lozenges or hard candy can stimulate saliva production, which can help keep the throat moist and relieve soreness.


Take pain relievers:
Non-prescription pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help reduce throat pain and inflammation.


Use throat sprays:
Throat sprays containing numbing agents like benzocaine or menthol can provide temporary relief from sore throat discomfort.


Use a humidifier:
Use a humidifier in your home, especially in the bedroom while sleeping, to add moisture to the air and prevent throat dryness. Be sure and clean your humidifier frequently.


Avoid irritants:
Try to avoid exposure to cigarette smoke, air pollution, and other irritants that can exacerbate throat irritation.


Rest your voice:
If possible, avoid excessive talking, shouting, and singing to give your throat time to rest and heal.


Consider herbal remedies:
Some herbal remedies, such as honey and lemon tea, may provide relief for sore throats. Honey has natural antimicrobial properties and can soothe the throat, while lemon provides vitamin C and antioxidants.


Seek medical advice if necessary:
If your sore throat persists for more than a few days, is severe, or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms such as high fever, difficulty swallowing, or swollen glands, consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and treatment.

While most sore throats are minor and resolve on their own, there are certain circumstances when you should seek medical attention.


Severe pain:
If your sore throat is extremely painful, it could indicate a more serious condition that requires medical evaluation.


Persistent sore throat:
If your sore throat persists for more than a week or two, it's a good idea to see a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause.


Difficulty breathing:
Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or wheezing associated with a sore throat could indicate a more serious respiratory issue that requires immediate medical attention.


High fever:
A fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, especially if accompanied by other symptoms like chills, body aches, or swollen glands, could indicate a viral or bacterial infection.


Difficulty swallowing:
If you have difficulty swallowing or experience pain that radiates to your ears when swallowing, you may have inflammation or an infection in your throat or tonsils.


Pus or white patches:
If you notice white patches or pus on your tonsils or the back of your throat, it could be a sign of a bacterial infection like strep throat.


Rash:
A sore throat accompanied by a rash could be a sign of a serious bacterial infection.


Swelling in the neck:
Swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, along with a sore throat, could indicate an underlying infection that requires medical evaluation.


Exposure to strep throat or COVID-19:
If you have been in close contact with someone who has strep throat or COVID-19, it's important to seek medical advice if you develop any symptoms.

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Where can I find the best treatment for a sore throat?

Access some of the top medical experts for your sore throat at WellNow Urgent Care. Our providers are ready to help you at conveniently located urgent care centers across the U.S. Find a location and visit us today. Or, start a virtual urgent care visit, in as little as 5 minutes you can connect with one of our medical providers online for a range of symptoms, including a sore throat.


This medical information has been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Robert Birenbaum, Chief Medical Officer for WellNow Urgent Care.


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