Sore Throat

Sore Throat

Sore throats are usually named for the anatomical site affected. 


  • Pharyngitis: The pharynx, the area of your throat directly behind your mouthand soft palate, is a common hallway for food, liquids, and air. Swallowing safely delivers solids and liquids to the stomach through the esophagus. Pharyngitis is pain and inflammation of the pharynx.
  • Tonsillitis: Tonsillitis typically involves inflammation of the tonsils (tonsils are located on either side of the base of the tongue).
  • Laryngitis: The larynx, the top portion of your windpipe (trachea), has an important gatekeeper function. It allows passage of air in and out of the lungs(through the trachea), but bars the entry of solids and liquids. Sound production at the vocal cords is an important side job of the larynx. Laryngitis is pain and inflammation of the larynx (often associated with a hoarse voice). Croup is a form of laryngitis in children (it tends to be associated with a seal bark cough and difficulty inhaling air).
  • Epiglottitis: This rare type of sore throat is inflammation of the epiglottis (a tall semitubular structure at the opening to the larynx separating it from the base of the tongue).


Symptoms of sore throat throughout the body include fever, headache, nausea and malaise. These may be present with either a viral or bacterial infection.


Symptoms specific to the throat include pain with swallowing for pharyngitis and a hoarse voice when laryngitis is present.Cold viruses tend to cause more coughing and runny nose than strep throat.


Signs of sore throat include the following:


  • Pus on the surface of the tonsils (can happen with bacteria or viruses).
  • Redness of the oropharynx (the pharynx viewed though the mouth).
  • Tender neck glands (inflamed lymphnodes).
  • Drooling or spitting (swallowing becomes too painful).
  • Difficulty breathing (inhaling can be especially difficult when the passage through the pharynx or larynx becomes too narrow for a normal stream of air).
  • Vesicles (bubbles of fluid on a red base) in the oral cavity or oropharynx may indicate the presence of Coxsackie virus or herpes simplex virus.


Two-thirds of people with strep throat have only redness with no pus on the tonsils. 


  • Sore throats are commonly caused by viruses (often the same viruses that cause colds or other upper respiratory illnesses) or bacteria (such as theinfection of streptococcal bacteria commonly called strep throat).
  • Sorethroatmay also be caused by chemicals (cigarette smoke), injury (ascrape from a bone fragment), allergy or postnasal drip, or, rarely, cancer (early cancer often presents with painless symptoms).
  • Certain medical treatments can cause a sore throat (tonsillectomy, airwaymanagement during an operation, or cancer treatment with chemotherapy orradiation).


Home treatment is usually all that is needed for a sore throat caused by a virus.


These tips may help you feel better.

  • Gargle with warm salt water to help reduce swelling and relieve discomfort:
  1. Gargle at least once each hour with 1 tsp (5 g) of salt dissolved in 8 fl oz (240 mL) of warm water.
  2. If you have postnasal drip, gargle often to prevent more throat irritation.
  • Prevent dehydration. Fluids may help thin secretions and soothe an irritated throat. Hot fluids, such as tea or soup, may help decrease throat irritation.
  • Use a vaporizer or humidifier in your bedroom.
  1. Warm or cool mist may help you feel more comfortable by soothing the swollen air passages. It may also relieve hoarseness. But don't let your room become uncomfortably cold or very damp.
  2. Use a shallow pan of water to provide moisture in the air through evaporation if you don't have a humidifier. Place the pan in a safe location where no one will trip on it or fall into it.
  • Do not smoke or use other tobacco products and avoid secondhand smoke. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
  • Use nonprescription throat lozenges.
  1. Some nonprescription throat lozenges, such as Sucrets Maximum Strength or Spec-T, are safe and effective and have medicine (local anesthetic) that numbs the throat to soothe pain.
  2. Regular cough drops may also help.
  • Use a decongestant.
  1. Decongestants make breathing easier by shrinking swollen mucous membranes in the nose, allowing air to pass through. They also help relieve a runny nose and postnasal drip, which can cause a sore throat.
  2. Decongestants can be taken orally or used as decongestant nasal sprays. Oral decongestants (pills) are probably more effective and provide longer relief but may cause more side effects.
  3. These medicines may not be safe for young children or for people who have certain health problems. Before you use them, check the label. If you do use these medicines, always follow the directions about how much to use based on age and in some cases weight.
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