Considering the average person swallows about 50 times per minute, that’s – gulp – a lot of pain to tolerate. Throat pain symptoms can be acute: coming on suddenly and lasting several days or they can be chronic: lasting weeks or even months in some cases. In fact, according to the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, throat symptoms are one of the most common reasons people visit their doctors (ranking above high blood pressure, rashes and back problems). Throat pain can be confusing; so let’s take a look at some of the common causes below to see where your symptoms might fit in.
Causes of Throat Pain
Viruses (such as those that cause the common cold as well as mononucleosis) can lead to a sore throat, bacteria (such as those that lead to strep throat) can also cause a sore throat. Additionally, smoking, inhaling polluted air and allergens such as pet dander, pollens and molds can lead to throat pain.
Viral Upper Respiratory Infections
Upper respiratory infections (URI), such as the common cold, are caused by viruses and often lead to an irritated throat, nasal congestion, coughing, sneezing, and running heads.
When your tonsils become infected by bacteria or a virus, it can cause them to swell, leading to symptoms such as a sore throat, white patches, fever, headache, pain when you swallow, and red and swollen tonsils.
Streptococcal pharyngitis is a bacterial throat and tonsil infection. It’s the cause of 15 to 40% of sore throats among children and 5 to 15% in adults. Unlike a cold, patients usually won’t experience sneezing, congestion or coughing with strep. If left untreated, it can sometimes result in kidney inflammation or rheumatic fever.
Mononucleosis (mono) is a viral infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. A sore throat is one of the main symptoms of mono and may last 1 to 4 weeks. Other symptoms of mono include swollen glands, fever, fatigue and headache.
If you find that allergies (such as pollen, pet dander and dust) commonly trigger a sore throat, avoid those irritants at all costs. More than pain, patients will usually experience scratching or tickling in the throat.
Sore Throat Treatment
Your doctor will need to run tests such as a rapid strep test, throat culture or a blood test to determine the cause of your sore throat so you can get the right treatment right away. If your pain is caused by bacteria, you will most likely be prescribed an antibiotic and begin to feel better in a few days. Infections caused by viruses cannot be helped with antibiotics, unfortunately and the symptoms will usually just have to “run their course” for about 10 days.
Find At-Home Relief
Some people find throat pain relief by implementing some of these natural at-home remedies.
- Rest up
- Gargle with warm salt water (1 tsp of salt per 8 oz of water)
- Use a humidifier in your bedroom
- Drink hot tea with lemon and honey
- Drape a towel over your head and breath in steam with a few drops of eucalyptus oil
- Drink lots of hydrating liquids to prevent dehydration
- While lozenges can help stimulate saliva, avoid those with lots of sugar
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol which can hinder your body’s ability to fight off infection and end up prolonging your sore throat
Preventing a Sore Throat
The best way to stay healthy and prevent contagious diseases is to regularly wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes, mouth and face.
Urgent Care for Throat Pain
When the symptoms of your sore throat last over a week and include a fever, difficulty swallowing, ear ache, or swollen glands, you should be evaluated by a medical professional at eMedical Urgent Care right away. After work, or on weekends, we‘re here. Our convenient walk-in hours are designed to fit your schedule. If you or your child becomes ill, don’t wait. Our experienced providers can diagnose and treat your urgent conditions quickly and expertly. Come see us for common illnesses, ailments, injuries and work-related issues. No appointment needed.