Sore Throat

This condition includes pain or a feeling of scratchiness in the throat. It is also known as pharyngitis.

This condition includes pain or a feeling of scratchiness in the throat. It is also known as pharyngitis.

Pharyngitis is a feeling of pain or scratchiness in the throat. It is often due to inflammation caused by a virus (cold or flu) or bacteria (e.g., strep throat). Some other possible causes of a sore throat include:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (stomach acid backing up into the throat)
  • Smoking
  • Allergies
  • Postnasal drip related to colds or allergies
  • Sleep apnea and snoring
  • Dry mouth due to medications you are taking or mouth breathing
  • Cancer
  • Swallowing of irritating substances

Symptoms associated with a sore throat due to a viral infection are typically mild, have a gradual onset and last three to four days.

  • Some viral infections in children can result in severe throat pain, drooling and small blisters in their mouth and throat. Contact your healthcare provider if your child complains of these symptoms. Topical anesthetic agents may be recommended.
  • Infectious mononucleosis is a viral infection that can cause a severe sore throat and large, painful lymph nodes. It is also known as “mono.” Contact your healthcare provider if you or your child develop these symptoms.
  • Antibiotics are not effective against viruses. However, they are effective against sore throats caused by strep. Taking antibiotics for a viral infection can cause unnecessary side effects. It can also decrease the effectiveness of the antibiotic in the future (due to drug resistant bacteria).

Symptoms associated with a bacterial infection (usually strep throat) are more common in late winter and early spring. They may include sudden onset of a high fever, sore throat with painful swallowing, swollen lymph nodes in the neck or a rash. Contact your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms.

  • Strep throat with an accompanying rash is known as scarlet fever.
  • Treatment for confirmed strep throat includes antibiotics. The presence of strep must be confirmed with either a throat culture or a rapid strep test.

To help ease your sore throat, try over-the-counter medications, salt water gargles, warm or cold liquids, a soft diet and cool mist humidifiers. Hard candy or throat lozenges can be helpful for older children and adults. If you smoke, quit!

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if your sore throat begins suddenly, you have a high fever or you are not getting better.

  • Bring a copy of your medical history (allergies, past illnesses, surgeries, and hospitalizations).
  • Make a list of your medications (including over-the-counter).
  • Write down any questions, symptoms or concerns you want to talk about.
  • If your healthcare provider wants you to take a medication, ask if an over-the-counter product is right for you.
  • If your healthcare provider prescribes a medication, ask for a generic one. If your doctor thinks that generics are not right for you, ask for medications on the lowest available tier of your Prescription Drug List (PDL).
  • If your healthcare provider prescribes an antibiotic, make sure he/she performs either a rapid strep test or a throat culture to confirm your infection is caused by strep. It should be an antibiotic specific for strep, not an antibiotic that treats a range of different bacteria (broad spectrum antibiotic).

Here are some questions to ask your healthcare provider.

  • What is causing my sore throat?
  • What treatment, if any, are you recommending? What options are available?
  • Is my sore throat caused by strep? Are you prescribing an antibiotic?
  • What tests do I need? What is the reason for those tests? Will the test results change my treatment plan?
  • What are my follow-up plans and what symptoms should I report before my next appointment?


Also known as:

Throat Pain
Throat Irritation
Throat Infection
Throat Culture
Swollen Tonsils
Swollen Throat
Strep Throat
Sore Throat
Scratchy Throat
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