You are experiencing a sore throat and possibly a burning throat. Maybe even swallowing is starting to become painful now! You know something is wrong, but what is wrong? Will your sore throat get better without going to the doctor or taking antibiotics? Or will you have to go to the doctor? You can find the answers to all these questions and much more below.
What is a sore throat?
A sore throat can be general or specific to a structure in the throat, such as the tonsils or larynx. Sometimes pain or irritation at the back of the tongue can also be felt as a sore throat. Types of ailments that can cause a sore throat include pharyngitis, tonsillitis , and in rare cases, throat cancer. Sore throat is usually caused by viral or bacterial infections.
A common bacterial infection of the throat is caused by group A streptococcus , known as strep throat . Infectious mononucleosis is also a type of viral infection that produces a characteristic sore throat. Your throat may also be irritated or sore from allergies, straining the voice, vomiting, or stomach reflux, a condition in which stomach acids rise up, toward the throat.
A sore throat is not serious on its own and may resolve on its own. However, if your pain persists for more than a few days and is accompanied by other symptoms, it is a good idea to have an examination to determine the cause. For pale skin/lips or bluish lips, rapid heart rate (tachycardia), high fever, breathing problems, it is recommended to see a doctor immediately. If you have a sore throat along with white patches and redness in your mouth or throat, a persistent fever or a tickling sensation in your throat and a cough with phlegm, it is recommended to seek medical attention immediately.
What other symptoms can occur with a sore throat?
Depending on the underlying disease, sore throat may be accompanied by other symptoms. Symptoms that often affect the throat can also involve other body systems.
Symptoms of infection that may occur with a sore throat
A sore throat may be accompanied by other symptoms that affect the respiratory system, including:
- Clear, yellow, light brown or green sputum
- difficulty breathing
- dry throat
- Swelling of the lymph nodes (swelling of the lymph node in the neck )
- hoarseness of voice
- Pus or white patches covering the tonsils or throat
- White patches inside the mouth or on the tongue
Gastrointestinal symptoms that may occur with a sore throat
A sore throat may be accompanied by symptoms related to the gastrointestinal tract, including:
- difficulty swallowing
- Chest pain and burning sensation in the chest
- Nausea and vomiting
Other symptoms that may occur along with a sore throat
A sore throat may be accompanied by symptoms related to other body systems, such as:
- body aches
- Fatigue and weakness
- High fever and chills
- Muscle pains
- Neck pain , neck stiffness, or neck tenderness
Serious symptoms that may indicate a life-threatening condition
In some cases, a sore throat can be a symptom of a life-threatening condition that needs immediate evaluation in an emergency setting. It is recommended to seek immediate medical attention if you or a loved one has the following symptoms:
- Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as fainting or unresponsiveness
- choking feeling
- Confusion or loss of consciousness, even for a brief moment
- High fever
- joint pain or jerky movements
- Rash or red spots on the body
- Pale or bluish lips, rapid heart rate, and severe difficulty breathing, which may be combined with anxiety
- feeling severe pain
- Sudden swelling of tongue or throat structures
What can cause a sore throat?
The most common causes of a sore throat include infectious diseases, certain types of cancer , straining the voice, tobacco use, and exposure to toxic chemicals or other injuries.
Infectious causes of sore throat
Sore throat can be caused by infectious disorders, including:
- Abscess (infected wound) around the tonsils or in the back of the throat
- acute HIV infection
- Mononucleosis (viral infection)
- Other viral and bacterial infections
- Postnasal drip
- Strep throat (bacterial throat infection)
- Tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils)
Injury-related causes of sore throat
In some cases, sore throat can be a symptom of an injury to the throat. Injuries to the throat can be caused by many reasons, including:
- Acid reflux from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- exposure to chemicals
- Excessive throat clearing
- Foreign body in throat
- Frequent presence in dirty environments
- Radiation therapy for head and neck cancer
- Tobacco use
- excessive strain on the voice
- Nausea and vomiting
Serious or life-threatening causes of sore throat
In some cases, a sore throat can be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting, such as:
- Throat and esophageal cancers
- Epiglottitis (life-threatening inflammation and swelling of the epiglottis, a flap of tissue between the tongue and windpipe)
- thyroid inflammation
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
Questions to diagnose the cause of sore throat
To diagnose your condition, your doctor will ask you a few questions about your sore throat, including:
- How long have you had a sore throat?
- Do you have any other symptoms?
- Do you have difficulty swallowing?
- Have you noticed any white patches or pus in your mouth or throat?
- do you have a cough?
- Did you experience any congestion or difficulty breathing?
- Have a fever or chills?
- Have you had nausea and vomiting?
- What medications are you taking?
- Have you been exposed to any chemicals or fumes?
What are the possible complications of a sore throat?
Because sore throat can be due to serious illness, leaving it untreated can lead to serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause has been diagnosed, it’s important to follow the treatment plan your doctor has specifically designed to reduce the risk of potential complications.
Possible complications with a sore throat include:
- Difficulty swallowing or inability to swallow
- Loss of voice or permanent damage to the voice
- Spread of a possible cancer
- Spread of a possible infection
What is good for sore throat?
1. Salt water gargle
Salt water gargle is an effective home remedy for sore throat that you can easily add to your daily routine. Although the ratio of salt and water varies from person to person, it will be enough to put half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water, then you can gargle with it to be good for sore throat. Salt water can clear mucus from the inflamed throat and reduce swelling. For maximum effect, you can rinse the salt water in your mouth and throat every few hours.
2. Baking soda mouthwash
A mouthwash solution made with baking soda is an alternative to a traditional saline solution. You can add a quarter teaspoon of baking soda to a glass of warm water and use this solution to gargle and clean the mouth and throat. You can also add ⅛ teaspoon of salt to the mix for more health benefits. In this way, you can soothe your sore throat and clear any possible phlegm in your throat. You can repeat this process several times a day.
3. Lemon juice and apple cider vinegar mouthwash
You can gargle with a mixture of equal parts lemon juice and warm water to reduce bacteria and soothe the throat. If you don’t have lemon juice, you can also add a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar to a glass of heated water to make a mild natural mouthwash solution. ( Benefits of apple cider vinegar )
4. Hydrogen peroxide mouthwash
Hydrogen peroxide, also known as oxygenated water, can kill sore throat-causing bacteria in the throat and mouth. Gargling with hydrogen peroxide added to three percent of the water’s volume can relieve a sore throat. However, it is recommended not to gargle with this mixture for more than 90 seconds. You should also be careful not to swallow this mixture.
5. Antibacterial mouthwash
You can also gargle with an over-the-counter antibacterial solution to kill and reduce bacteria in the mouth that can cause a sore throat. While antibacterial mouthwash is less effective for sore throats caused by viruses, it can reduce sore throat caused by bacteria, resulting in faster healing.
6. Licorice root mouthwash
A concoction made with licorice root and warm water is another effective mouthwash solution to relieve sore throat and congestion in the throat. Licorice root has pain-relieving properties and can help boost the immune system to fight viruses associated with respiratory diseases. However, pregnant or breastfeeding people should not use licorice root.
Commonly known for soothing sore throats, the consistency of honey can gently coat the throat for relief. Honey is also an antibacterial and can strengthen the immune system. Unprocessed pure honey increases antioxidants in the body and can help fight infections that cause sore throats. Adding an equal amount of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to honey can further enhance its health benefits. For quick relief, you can take up to a tablespoon of this mixture every two hours.
A natural antihistamine and decongestant, ginger is effective in reducing pain and congestion in the throat. Ginger ale, especially those with real ginger in it, can break up excess mucus associated with respiratory conditions. As an antiviral and antibacterial, ginger can be drunk intermittently throughout the day for its healing effects. ( Benefits of Ginger )
9. Chicken Soup
Besides being a comforting meal when you’re sick, drinking hot chicken soup when you have a sore throat has numerous health benefits. Chicken soup contains proteins, antioxidants and amino acids that help the body’s ability to fight infection. Chicken soup, which is high in magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin C and vitamin A, can naturally strengthen the immune system.
Chamomile tea is anti-inflammatory and analgesic. This tea can naturally relax tense muscles in the throat and also relax the body to promote healing of sore throat. The antioxidants found in chamomile tea can strengthen the immune system. The astringent nature of chamomile tea helps clear mucus, especially in the throat and mucous membranes.
11. Slippery elm
When a sore throat needs soothing, slippery elm tea is a natural way to coat the back of the throat for relief. You can pour boiling water over slippery elm bark powder, then let the tea cool enough for safe drinking. Most sore throat remedies contain slippery elm and taste similar to licorice root.
Fenugreek tea is another option for curing a sore throat. Fenugreek contains immune-boosting qualities such as magnesium, iron and vitamin B-6. This sweet and nutty-flavored tea is a natural pain reliever with anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Tea made from fenugreek can also kill bacteria that cause throat irritation.
13. Marshmallow root
You can make marshmallow root tea by adding boiling water to the dried marshmallow root. Marshmallow root tea is safe, so you can drink marshmallow root tea intermittently throughout the day. Marshmallow root is a natural analgesic with pain-relieving properties that can soothe and relieve an irritated throat.
Another tea on the list that can help with a sore throat is peppermint tea. Peppermint is antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. This herbal remedy also has a cooling effect due to the menthol in its leaf. Peppermint acts as a decongestant and can clear mucous membranes. Peppermint essential oil can also be used as a throat spray or mouthwash to promote healing.
15. Ice cream
The cooling effects of ice cream can be very soothing for sore throats, especially in children . All-natural ice creams made from fruit or fruit juice are healthier than sugary popsicles dyed with food coloring. Eating ice cream can be hydrating, especially if it’s difficult to drink fluids. You should avoid milk-based ice creams as they can increase mucus production.
16. Pieces of ice
Another method to naturally numb the throat involves sucking on ice. “Sucking on ice chips can help numb the nerve receptors in the back of the throat and reduce pain and swelling in the throat, ” says Leann Poston , vice dean at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine and contributor to Ikon Health .
17. Soft foods
Avoiding hard foods can reduce throat irritation. Hard and dry crackers, chips, toast, and popcorn should be temporarily avoided until the throat has healed. For those with sore throats, softer foods such as macaroni, cheese, oatmeal, yogurt, and mashed potatoes are better to swallow. Applesauce and fruit puree are also great ways to refresh the body while the throat heals.
Again, staying hydrated and eating well is very important, especially when sick. Apple juice and grape juice are high in vitamin C and are easy to digest, so they can be used for sore throat. You should avoid citrus drinks such as orange juice and lemonade, as their acid content can irritate the throat tissue.
19. Lozenges and hard candy
Throat lozenges and hard candies can help relieve a sore throat. Sucking on hard candy or throat lozenges increases saliva production, which can relieve a sore throat. The additional saliva produced when sucking a lozenge lubricates and moistens the throat, reducing dryness, irritation and soreness in the throat. It is recommended not to give lozenges to children under 6 years of age due to the danger of suffocation.
20. Massaging the lymph nodes
Massaging the lymph nodes, also known as lymphatic drainage , can help clear up the infection that is contributing to a sore throat. The lymph nodes will be tender and sensitive to the touch, so it is recommended to very gently rub the swollen lymph nodes located on the side of the neck with downward movements. This massage technique will help the body flush out toxins and increase circulation for a faster recovery.
21. Disinfecting the environment
If you have any viral or bacterial infection that causes sore throat or respiratory problems, you can reduce your exposure to germs. Simple tasks such as cleaning surfaces with antibacterial cleaner or wet wipes can significantly reduce the duration of the illness. Doorknobs, phones, and commonly used surfaces such as countertops and sinks can host unwanted germs that can lead to infection (or recurring infection) in your family members.
22. Humidifying the air you breathe
You can use a vaporizer or humidifier in your home to add moisture to the air. Humidified air can be soothing for an irritated throat. To help you breathe while you sleep, you can keep your head elevated and use a humidifier in the bedroom. Also, essential oils such as peppermint or eucalyptus can be added to many vaporizers to ease breathing and promote health.