10 Causes Of Sore Throat And Painful Swallowing, And When These Symptoms Become An Emergency

Date April 10, 2018

Pretty much everyone gets a sore throat at least a few times in their lives. The most common causes of throat soreness, such as a common cold or dry air, are easy to treat or resolve. But some of them, e.g. streptococcal infections, can cause serious complications and require treatment.

Depending on the cause, a sore throat can be accompanied by various symptoms, such as a runny nose and coughing. Also, when you have a sore throat, it becomes difficult to swallow.

If your sore throat is caused by a common viral infection or environmental irritants, you can treat it at home in most cases. However, if a sore throat is a sign of a bacterial infection, it requires treatment with antibiotics.

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10 possible causes of throat soreness

There are many factors and conditions that can cause a sore throat and painful swallowing. Here are some of them:

1. Dry air

In many cases, a sore throat is caused by low humidity levels of indoor air. If that’s the case, your throat feels especially dry and irritated upon waking up. Also, in this situation, you’re unlikely to have other symptoms in addition to sore throat. If the air in your home is dry, use a humidifier.

2. Yelling or talking too loudly

If you’ve been yelling or talking loudly recently, and if you have no symptoms other than a sore throat, strained vocal cords may be behind your discomfort.

3. Air pollution

Air polluted with tobacco smoke, household chemicals, or industrial chemicals may also cause throat soreness.

4. Acid reflux

In gastroesophageal reflux disease (also called acid reflux), stomach acid spills into the esophagus, causing irritation, burning, dryness, and sometimes painful swallowing.

5. Allergies

If you have an allergy to dust, animal dander, mold, or pollen, you can get a sore throat when you are exposed to the irritating agent. It’s also usually accompanied by a runny nose, post-nasal drip, and irritated, itchy, and watery eyes.

READ ALSO: 10 Differences Between A Common Cold And Allergies

6. Common cold

If your sore throat is caused by a common cold, other symptoms usually include a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing and coughing, a mild headache, and low-grade fever. If a common cold is the cause, sore throat and other symptoms can usually be treated with home remedies and subside in a week or even sooner.

7. Flu

Flu can also cause a sore throat, and its symptoms are usually similar to those of a common cold, but they can be more severe. In healthy people, the flu usually goes away on its own, but certain groups of people may need to take antivirals and other medicines to treat it.

8. Streptococcal infection

The most common bacterial infection to cause a sore throat is streptococcal infection (commonly known as strep throat). Other symptoms include red and swollen tonsils (sometimes with white patches), swollen and tender lymph nodes in the neck, fever, headache, and sometimes skin rash. Strep throat is more common in young children, but adults may also get it.

9. Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis – an inflammation of the tonsils – can also cause a sore throat. Tonsillitis may be viral or bacterial. Symptoms that can accompany inflamed tonsils and sore throat include bad breath, fever, voice changes, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

10. Throat cancer

Although it’s rare, a sore throat may be caused by throat cancer. Other symptoms of the disease include persistent cough, hoarseness, an unexplained lump in the throat, and trouble swallowing.

When to see your doctor if you have a sore throat

In most cases, a sore throat can be treated at home. But in some situations, there may be symptoms that need to be checked by a doctor.

Emergency symptoms include the following:

  • trouble breathing;
  • difficulty or inability to swallow;
  • fast heart rate;
  • a fever that doesn’t subside;
  • dizziness;
  • coughing up blood.

If your sore throat doesn’t start to improve with home treatments in a few days, or if it’s getting worse, you should see your doctor.

Source: MedicineNet, HealthLine, WebMD (1), WebMD (2)

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This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.