A sore throat or earache might put a halt to your day. The pain might suddenly become excruciating. So, it’s important to figure out what’s causing these symptoms and treat them as soon as possible.
Sore Throat Introduction
A sore throat is a common problem and usually is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. The medical term for a sore throat is “pharyngitis.” It usually resolves on its own without complications in adults, although it is important to know when to seek medical attention.
Viruses can cause a sore throat and other upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold. Sore throat caused by a common cold virus is not treated with antibiotics but instead may be treated with rest, pain medication, and other therapies aimed at relieving symptoms.
Strep throat is a particular kind of pharyngitis that is caused by a bacterium known as group A Streptococcus (GAS). Strep throat is treated with a course of antibiotics.
Sore Throat Symptoms
Sore throat symptoms are listed below:
- Viral Pharyngitis – Most people with a sore throat have a virus. The most common viruses are those that cause upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold. Signs and symptoms include the following:
- A runny or congested nose
- Irritation or redness of the eyes
- Cough, hoarseness, or soreness in the roof of the mouth
- Some viruses cause a fever and can make you feel quite ill.
- Strep Throat – Approximately 10 percent of adults with a sore throat have strep throat. Signs and symptoms of strep throat include the following:
- Pain in the throat
- Fever (temperature greater than 100.4°F, or 38°C)
- Enlarged lymph glands in the neck
- White patches of pus on the side or back of the throat
- No cough, runny nose, or irritation/redness of the eyes
When To Seek Urgent Help?
See your doctor or nurse immediately if you have a sore throat along with any of the following:
- Difficulty breathing
- Skin rash
- Drooling because you cannot swallow
- Swelling of the neck or tongue
- Stiff neck or difficulty opening the mouth
- Underlying chronic illness/medication that may impair your immune system
You should also contact your health care provider for advice if you think you may have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.
Treatment Of Sore Throat
Antibiotics do not help throat pain caused by a virus and are not recommended. Inappropriate use of antibiotics for viral illness can unnecessarily increase the risk of side effects like diarrhea, rash, or more serious allergic reactions. Sore throat caused by viral infections usually lasts four to five days. During this time, treatments to reduce pain may be helpful. Several therapies can help to relieve throat pain.
Treatments of Viral Pharyngitis:
- Pain medication
- Oral steroids
- Oral rinses
Over-the-counter pain relievers can provide fast and effective relief of sore throat pain. These include acetaminophen (sample brand name: Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (“NSAID”) such as ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (sample brand names: Aleve, Naprosyn).
Not routinely used because steroids come with (potentially serious) side effects, the benefit in treating sore throat pain is limited, and over-the-counter treatments help in most cases.
Salt-water gargles have long been used as a remedy for throat pain. Salt water can end sore throat temporarily. It is not fully clear how it works to relieve pain, but it is unlikely to be harmful. Most recipes suggest 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon (1.5 to 3.0 g) of salt per 1 cup (8 ounces or 250 mL) of warm water.
Sprays containing topical anesthetics (eg, benzocaine, phenol) are available to treat sore throat. However, such sprays are no more effective than sucking on hard candy.
A variety of lozenges (cough drops) containing topical anesthetics are available to treat throat pain or relieve dryness. Lozenges may persist longer in the throat than sprays or gargles and, thus, may be more effective for symptom relief.
Include sipping warm beverages (eg, honey or lemon tea, chicken soup), cold beverages, or eating cold or frozen desserts (eg, ice cream, popsicles).
Treatments of Strep throat:
Although strep throat typically resolves on its own within two to five days, treatment with antibiotics is recommended for adults whose rapid test or throat culture is positive for strep throat.
Penicillin, or an antibiotic related to penicillin, is the treatment of choice for strep throat. It is usually given in pill or liquid form two to four times per day for 10 days. A one-time injection of penicillin is also available. People who are allergic to penicillin are given an alternate antibiotic. It is important to finish the entire course of treatment to completely eliminate the infection.
If symptoms do not begin to improve or if they worsen by three days of antibiotic treatment, you should see your doctor or nurse again.