Viral throat infections

These are the most common type of throat infection. They are more common than bacterial throat infections and affect both adults and children.

A good example of this is the common cold. If you find that you get a sore throat along with other cold symptoms then this will be a viral infection. A sore throat is usually the precursor of a sore throat.

Sore throats are often caused by viruses and bacteria although they can occur for other reasons. These include as a side effect of an illness or a medication, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, allergies or misuse of the throat.

This section discusses viral throat infections.

Causes of viral throat infections

A viral throat infection occurs when a virus enters the body and attacks the throat. That is the simplest description of this type of throat infection.

This virus enters the body via a cold, flu or glandular fever. This is a highly contagious type of virus which is spread between people via personal contact or infected saliva. This saliva can be airborne as a result of coughing and sneezing or is present on paper tissues.

A viral throat infection is more likely to be contracted through personal contact rather than airborne droplets although it can happen.

If you pick up something which has been handled by someone with a viral infection then there is every chance that you will develop this infection.

Viral throat infections are more likely to occur in the winter due to the fact that we spend more time indoors as a result of the bad weather. Stuffy, centrally heated environments help the germs to spread and are easily transmitted between people.

There is also the fact that our immune systems tend to adapt to being indoors in the winter months but are less able to cope once we venture outside.

Can you catch a cold as a result of the winter weather?

Many people assume that they develop a cold due to the bad weather or freezing temperatures but this is not the case. Colds occur when people touch or are in contact with someone who already has a cold.

Cold weather or going outside with wet hair do not cause you to develop a cold.

Symptoms of viral throat infections

These will vary between people. Some people find that they have only a mild sore throat whereas others develop a very painful throat and have problems with swallowing.

This infection starts with a dry, tickly or scratchy feeling at the back of the throat which also affects the voice. The voice becomes hoarse or deeper in tone which the person affected finds it difficult to raise to a high enough volume.

This then develops into the classic sore throat. It becomes hard to swallow or hurts when you do so. Your throat will feel painful and is inflamed to look at.

Other symptoms include:

  • Congestion in the nose and throat
  • Pain in the sinuses
  • High temperature
  • Cough

These are all signs of the common cold.

You may also develop swollen glands in your neck and armpits as your body’s immune system attempts to kill the infection. There is also a feeling of tiredness and being generally off colour.

Treatment for viral throat infections

Viral throat infections cannot be treated with antibiotics and respond well to home based remedies such as ibuprofen and throat lozenges.

There is no cure for viral infections such as the common cold and in most cases they will clear up by themselves. You can always try cold or flu remedies which may help to ease the symptoms.

Make sure you get plenty of fluids during this time. This includes drinks, soups or anything which is smooth and easy to swallow. Try and rest (which includes your voice) and take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease any discomfort and lower your temperature.

These measures will help but they are not a cure. Viral throat infections tend to heal themselves and will disappear after a week or so. But if you find that your infection persists or has worsened then see your GP.

It may be the case that you have developed a bacterial infection as well which will require treatment with antibiotics.

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