(Tuesday, 2nd Sep, 2014)
A sore throat occurs when the area around the tonsils becomes inflamed or infected. Pain in the throat is usually the first symptom to develop, though if you get a sore throat through being infected with the common cold, then it will likely develop after infected liquid runs down the back of your throat from your runny nose.
A sore throat generally causes difficulty in swallowing. A sore throat may also lead to a high temperature. Pain in the throat may spread to the ears and sinus regions, which are all linked. The lymph glands in your neck may become swollen and tender to the touch.
Many different things can cause a sore throat. It may be a symptom of something more serious, such as influenza or glandular fever, or it may be in itself an illness. To contract a sore throat, you must usually be infected by a virus or by bacteria.
Sore throats caused by a virus are usually not as painful and are mostly caused by infection with the common cold. However, a sore throat may also result from being infected by the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes glandular fever. Infection by the Coxsackie virus may also cause small blisters on the tonsils and roof of the mouth that then burst, forming painful scabs.
A number of different strains of bacteria can cause a sore throat. Of these, the most severe infection is caused by the Streptococcus type A bacterium. If the throat becomes infected this way (known as Strep Throat), the tonsils swell up and become coated. Strep throat is quite common among children, and should be treated effectively, as it occasionally leads to Rheumatic fever. A Strep throat may typically cause a mild fever, swollen lymph glands, headaches, bad breath, and white patches on the throat itself.
There are other reasons why your throat might be sore. Smoking can irritate the throat and leads to excessive coughing. Smoking can also cause throat-related illnesses, including laryngitis, pharyngitis, and throat cancer.
In children, sore throat may be the first symptom of many childhood viral illnesses, including chickenpox, measles and mumps.
Breathing only through the mouth may cause your throat to become dry and irritated. Equally, if you get a foreign object stuck in your gullet, such as a fish or chicken bone, its removal may injure your throat. However, it is always important to clear the airways if someone is choking. Having an operation on your throat, or having a tube inserted into your throat, can also leave it sore and tender.
The treatment depends on what type of sore throat it is. Most viral sore throats are best treated with time and rest, though paracetamol may be used in the recommended doses to reduce inflammation and pain. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial sore throats.
With Strep throat, it is essential to finish the entire course of antibiotics, even after the symptoms have disappeared, to avoid the infection recurring.
It is important to drink plenty of fluids if you have a sore throat. Cooling drinks may help you to swallow better.
Inform your GP before taking any over-the-counter medications, as they may react with any treatments your GP has prescribed for you. Gargling salty water and eating honey may help to ease the pain and inflammation.
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