Sore throats are among the most common health complaints of U.S. adults. Pain when you swallow or speak can be a precursor of a cold or infection, or may indicate a serious health condition. Fortunately, much of the time the symptoms of a sore throat ease quickly, without the need for medical intervention.
Symptoms & Causes
Sore throats affect everybody at one point or another. As uncomfortable as they are, most of the time they are short-lived, and followed by rapid improvement. Symptoms include pain and discomfort in the throat, hoarseness, scratchiness, difficulty swallowing, dry throat, swollen neck and jaw glands, inflamed tonsils, fever, chills, cough, runny nose, sneezing, headache, nausea, vomiting, and muscle and joint aches.
The majority of sore throats are caused by viral infections such as colds and flu, laryngitis, or mononucleosis. Bacterial infections can cause sore throats, too. Strep throat, tonsillitis, whooping cough, epiglottitis, and even certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are some of the more common types. Other sore throat causes include environmental irritants such as cigarette smoke and pollution; allergies; acid reflux; postnasal drip; and injury/trauma to the throat or neck, including strained vocal cords resulting from excessive yelling or improper voice use.
Treating & Preventing a Sore Throat
In many cases, home remedies are the most effective type of treatment for a sore throat. A warm saltwater gargle repeated several times a day can help with discomfort. Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of liquids, and suck on throat lozenges and cough drops to relieve irritation. A humidifier will keep the air moist, preventing your throat from becoming dry and scratchy. Popular over-the-counter pain relievers include acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Zinc lozenges have proven helpful at reducing the duration of sore throats. Many people associate sore throats with antibiotics, but unless a bacterial infection such as strep throat is responsible for your sore throat, antibiotics aren’t needed.
The best way to prevent a sore throat is by avoiding contact with people who are already sick. Do not share objects with these individuals. Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap, or use antibacterial hand sanitizer.