Causes of a sore throat

A sore throat is a very common condition that affects all of us at some point in our lives. They are caused by any number of things, for example a viral infection and can make you feel miserable and off colour for a short period of time.

Most cases of sore throats disappear without any need for treatment but there are a few situations in which a sore throat is a symptom of a serious condition or it worsens, requiring medical intervention.

When should you seek medical help?

Most people either leave their sore throat to get better on its own accord or use a home based remedy such as honey and lemon to ease the pain and discomfort.

But, if you notice that your symptoms have worsened, your sore throat has not disappeared after a week or so or you are finding it harder to swallow or breathe then consult your GP.

The main causes of a sore throat are:

  • Viral infection: these include head colds, influenza and glandular fever.
  • Bacterial infection: one example of this is strep throat
  • Smoke inhalation (smoking)
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Oral thrush
  • Hay fever
  • Side effect of chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Acid reflux
  • Blood disorders such as aplastic anaemia or leukaemia
  • Overuse: examples include singing and public speaking

Viral and bacterial infections account for the vast majority of sore throats. These are discussed in greater detail in our throat infections section.

Coughing can also cause a sore throat. Someone who is a smoker may find that they develop a persistent cough which can increase the chance of getting an infection.

Working or being in a dry, smoky or polluted environment can also result in a sore throat. If you find that you are prone to developing a sore throat as a result of this then keep a few cough sweets or a drink to hand. This will ensure that your throat remains lubricated and reduces the risk of an infection.

If you have an allergy, for example to dust then this can cause a bout of coughing which may also inflame your throat. The more prolonged or violent the coughing is the greater the risk of you developing a throat infection.

Signs of a sore throat

This may appear an obvious question but a sore throat often involves more than just a pain in the back of your throat.

It can also include a high temperature, pain around the ears or under your jaw; difficulty in eating or swallowing; bad breath; blisters on the tongue; swollen tonsils; swollen glands in your neck and symptoms which are similar to a cold or flu.

You can develop a sore throat but otherwise, do not have any other symptoms: or you can experience a sore throat as part of a collection of symptoms which are a sign of a disease or infection.

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