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Sore throat: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About sore throat

A sore throat is a very commonly encountered problem wherein the individual feels pain, and discomfort in the throat region. A sore throat can be attributed to inflammation or infection of various organs located there. Some of the common entities leading to sore throat are tonsillitis, laryngitis or pharyngitis.

Sore throat: Incidence, age and sex

The occurrence of a sore throat is extremely common in general population and may be seen in any age group. However they are more common in both active and passive smokers.

Signs and symptoms of sore throat: Diagnosis

Individuals with a sore throat may complain of discomfort or itchy sensation in the throat; some may also experience pain which is usually intense at the time of waking up in the morning. Very commonly, a sore throat is known to cause difficulty or pain during swallowing. It is usually accompanied by colds and flu, running nose or cough.

A detailed clinical examination of the throat may reveal swelling and redness of tonsils or larynx. Generally, no tests are required to establish the diagnosis. However, some blood tests may be needed to diagnose the causative infection which may have led to such a presentation.

Causes and prevention of sore throat

A sore throat can be either infectious or even allergic in nature. Most commonly, it is infectious in nature and caused by viruses like coxsackievirus. Streptococcal bacteria are one of the most common bacterial causes of a sore throat. Other non-infectious causes include mouth breathing, allergic rhinitis, endotracheal intubation, tonsillectomy, smoking, and post-nasal dripping. Laryngitis, pharyngitis and tonsillitis are the most common attributing factors in occurrence of a sore throat.

Preventive measures like frequent washing of hands and covering of mouth while coughing may inhibit spreading of upper respiratory tract infection, if any.

Sore throat: Complications

A sore throat may often result in difficulty in eating, thereby hampering nutrition. However other complications of a sore throat may result from the underlying causes. Tonsillitis, if left untreated may result in pus collection in and around the tonsillar region. This can be extremely dangerous in immuno-compromised individuals in whom the infection may spread and result in septicaemia. Sometimes secondary bacterial infections can affect the respiratory tract or the existing infection may spread to lungs resulting in pneumonia.

Sore throat: Treatment

The treatment of a sore throat depends upon its causative factor. For example, a sore throat due to bacterial cause may need appropriate antibiotic medication. Anti-allergic medications may be helpful in case of a sore throat due to allergic rhinitis. Other supportive therapy includes warm saline gargles and lozenges which can provide temporary relief. A humidifier may help in preventing frequent occurrence of a sore throat in individuals, prone to oral breathing. Moreover NSAIDs painkillers or acetaminophen may be given for temporary pain relief. In a nutshell, a sore throat may be caused by several factors, which require evaluation, followed by appropriate treatment.