What is a sore throat?

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A sore throat refers to the irritation, pain or itchiness of the throat. It is accompanied with swallowing difficulties and the pain tends to worsen when you swallow. The pain is the initial symptom of a sore throat. It also includes swollen gland in the neck, dry throat, and hoarseness of voice and white patches on the tonsils.

The condition can affect individuals of all ages, but the risk is higher among some such as smokers, children, individuals who suffer from allergies and those with a comprised immune system.

Causes of sore throat

Always bear in mind that a sore throat has several causes.

  • Viral infection that is caused by flu or cold
  • Bacterial infection such as diphtheria, strep throat and whooping cough
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Environmental factors

How sore throat is diagnosed

sore throat
Difficulty breathing is one of the symptoms of sore throat.

Majority of cases of sore throat do not require medical attention. Nevertheless, it is important to consult a doctor if the condition lasts for more than a week and if the individual experiences the following:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Joint pain
  • Rashes
  • Earache
  • High fever
  • Bloody mucus
  • Hoarseness of voice for more than 2 weeks
  • Lump in the throat

The doctor will perform a physical examination and check the throat using a lighted instrument. If there are signs of swelling or white patches, it indicates strep throat. The doctor will also palpate the neck for swollen glands and the breathing will be checked.

Since strep throat is the common cause of majority of cases, the doctor might swab the back of the throat and check the sample for the presence of the Streptococcal bacteria. A blood test will be performed to determine if it is a bacterial or viral infection.

Treatment for sore throat

The treatment for a sore throat depends on the cause. Nevertheless, you can easily treat the condition with simple first aid measures at home.

  • Provide the individual with plenty of warm fluids to drink such as water, teas and soup.
  • Instruct the individual to gargle using salt water
  • Provide throat lozenges
  • Avoid exposure to irritants and allergens such as chemicals and smoke
  • Administer over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen

If the cause is a bacterial infection, the doctor will prescribe a full course of antibiotics to eliminate the organism. The prescribed medications must be taken for 10 days. Stopping the intake early will cause the condition to recur.

Those caused by a viral infection are allowed to run their course. During that time, the doctor will prescribe medications such as pain relievers and decongestants to help ease the symptoms.

In some cases that involve persistent bacterial infections, the doctor would likely recommend a tonsillectomy that involves the surgical removal of the tonsils. This is considered as the last option that must only be considered when the sore throat no longer responds to antibiotics.

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