Sore Throat
Sore Throat: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

A sore throat is a common condition that affects many people at some point in their lives. It can cause pain, scratchiness or irritation in the throat that often worsens when you swallow or talk. A sore throat can also be accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever, cough, runny nose, swollen glands, headache and body aches.

A sore throat can have various causes, but the most common one is a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu. Other possible causes include bacterial infections (such as strep throat), allergies, irritants (such as tobacco, alcohol or spices), dry air, straining your voice or acid reflux.

In this blog post, we will discuss how to identify the cause of your sore throat, how to treat it at home and when to see a doctor.

How to Identify the Cause of Your Sore Throat

The cause of your sore throat can affect the type and severity of your symptoms, as well as the best treatment option for you. Here are some clues that can help you figure out what is causing your sore throat:

•  If you have a sore throat along with a runny nose, sneezing, coughing and a low-grade fever, you probably have a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu. Viral infections are the most common cause of sore throats and usually last for 5 to 7 days. They do not respond to antibiotics and usually get better on their own with rest and fluids.

•  If you have a sore throat along with a high fever, swollen lymph nodes, red or swollen tonsils with white patches or pus, trouble swallowing and a rash, you may have strep throat. Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by Streptococcus pyogenes that can be serious if left untreated. It requires antibiotic treatment to prevent complications such as rheumatic fever or kidney damage. Strep throat is more common in children than adults and is contagious through respiratory droplets.

•  If you have a sore throat along with allergies symptoms such as itchy eyes, sneezing and nasal congestion, you may have allergic rhinitis or hay fever. Allergic rhinitis is caused by an overreaction of your immune system to allergens such as pollen, dust mites or animal dander. It can be seasonal or year-round and can be treated with antihistamines, nasal sprays or allergy shots.

•  If you have a sore throat along with hoarseness, loss of voice or difficulty speaking, you may have laryngitis. Laryngitis is inflammation of the voice box (larynx) that can be caused by overuse of your voice (such as yelling or singing), irritants (such as smoke or chemicals) or infections (such as colds or flu). Laryngitis usually lasts for a few days and can be treated with rest, hydration and avoiding irritants.

•  If you have a sore throat along with heartburn, regurgitation or a sour taste in your mouth, you may have acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back into your esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach) and irritates your throat. GERD is a chronic condition that can cause complications such as esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus), ulcers or cancer. Acid reflux can be treated with lifestyle changes (such as avoiding spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine), antacids or prescription medications.

How to Treat Your Sore Throat at Home

Most cases of sore throats are mild and do not require medical attention. You can try some home remedies to ease your pain and discomfort and speed up your recovery. Here are some tips:

•  Keep your throat wet and hydrated by drinking plenty of water.  Warm liquids such as tea, soup or broth can soothe your throat and loosen mucus. Drinks that are excessively hot or too cold will irritate your throat even more.

•  Gargle with salt water several times a day to reduce inflammation and kill bacteria. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle for a few seconds before spitting it out. Do not swallow the salt water, as it can cause nausea or dehydration.

•  Suck on lozenges, hard candies or ice chips to stimulate saliva production and keep your throat lubricated. Choose sugar-free products to avoid tooth decay. Do not give lozenges or hard candies to children under 4 years old, as they can pose a choking hazard.

•  Use a humidifier or vaporizer to add moisture to the air and ease breathing. You can also inhale steam from a hot shower or a bowl of hot water with a towel over your head. This can help clear your nasal passages and reduce irritation in your throat.

•  Rest your voice and avoid talking too much or too loudly. This can help prevent further strain on your vocal cords and allow them to heal faster.

•  Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) to reduce inflammation and fever. Follow the label’s instructions and do not exceed the suggested dose. Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years old, as it can cause Reye’s syndrome, a rare but serious condition that affects the brain and liver.

•  Avoid irritants such as tobacco smoke, alcohol, spicy foods or acidic foods that can worsen your sore throat. Quitting smoking can also improve your overall health and reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases.

When to See a Doctor for Your Sore Throat

While most sore throats are not serious and get better on their own, some may indicate an underlying condition that requires medical attention.

If you encounter any of the following symptoms, you should consult a doctor.:

•  Your sore throat lasts longer than 7 days

•  You have trouble breathing, swallowing or opening your mouth

•  You have severe pain that interferes with your daily activities

•  You have joint pain, earache, rash, fever higher than 101°F (38°C) or blood in your saliva

•  You have recurrent sore throats that do not respond to home remedies

•  You have signs of strep throat such as white patches on your tonsils

•  You have signs of COVID-19 such as loss of taste or smell

Your throat will be examined by your doctor, and you will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. They may also conduct tests such as:

•  A rapid strep test: This involves swabbing the back of your throat and checking for strep bacteria within minutes.

•  A throat culture: This involves sending a sample of your throat swab to a lab for further analysis.

•  A blood test: This involves drawing blood from your arm and checking for signs of infection or other conditions.

Depending on the cause of your sore throat, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics (for bacterial infections), antivirals (for viral infections), antihistamines (for allergies) or other medications.


A sore throat is a common condition that can cause pain and discomfort in the throat area. It can be caused by various factors such as infections, allergies, irritants or acid reflux.

Most sore throats are mild and do not require medical treatment. You can try some home remedies such as drinking fluids, gargling salt water, sucking lozenges or using humidifiers to ease your symptoms.

However, if your sore throat is severe, lasts longer than 7 days or is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, rash or trouble breathing, you should see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.