What Causes Sore Throat & How to Deal with It

Sore Throat referral to ENT doctor

Waking up with a sore throat is unpleasant. Your throat feels dry and irritated, making it painful to even swallow your saliva.  Sometimes a sore throat is combined with more severe symptoms like a headache, nausea and vomiting, and fever with body aches. Having a sore throat is usually harmless even though it does not always feel that way. However, in some unusual cases, it can develop into something more serious. Understanding what causes a sore throat and how to treat it is important to avoid more serious cases. 

Otorhinolaryngology is a surgical subspecialty within medicine that deals with the surgical and medical management of conditions of the head and neck. Doctors who specialize in this area are called otorhinolaryngologists, otolaryngologists, head and neck surgeons, or ENT physicians. The doctors Anne Arundel ENT in Annapolis, MD are available to help you find relief for sore throats, sinusitis, and many other seasonal & chronic conditions.

Viral infections cause Sore Throats

Most sore throats are caused by viruses such as the flu or cold. These infections are popular among children and usually do not develop into severe cases. Viral infections tend to resolve on their own within a week. 

Tonsillitis is another fairly common infection that leads to a sore throat. Although viral infections more commonly cause tonsillitis, bacterial infections can cause similar symptoms. Tonsillitis is characterized by swollen tonsils and should be treated quickly to avoid removal surgery. Although traditional medicines can usually treat tonsilitis, surgery is used to treat severe or chronic tonsilitis. 

Bacterial infections cause Sore Throats

Strep throat is the most frequent bacterial infection that causes sore throats. This infection is more popular among children than adults. If you have a sore throat combined with swollen glands and fever, you likely have strep throat. Strep throat is highly contagious so acting quickly is vital. 

The Proper Treatment 

Although most cases of sore throats are benign, it is important to monitor your symptoms to avoid severe symptoms and spreading germs. Sore throats caused by viruses are treated differently than those resulting from bacteria. The biggest difference is that antibiotics do not help resolve viral infections. To determine the cause of your sore throat doctors will often use a throat swab. Once the cause is determined, then the correct prescribed medication will be assigned.

Since bacteria can cause strep throat, antibiotics are needed to treat the infection and prevent fever and other complications. If you have strep throat, it is recommended that you should stay home from work, school, and any social events until you no longer have a fever AND have taken antibiotics for at least 12 hours.

If a virus causes a sore throat. Your doctor may prescribe other medicine or give you tips to help you feel better while you allow your body’s immune system to handle the virus.

Please be sure to confirm any bacterial infection with a doctor. When a person takes antibiotics that are not needed, the medications will not provide symptom relief. Not only that, you may have adverse side effects from the antibiotics including rash, allergic reaction, and development of antibiotic-resistant infections.

At Home Relief

Keeping your throat moist is important when you have a sore throat. This helps with the irritation. Children commonly drink cold liquids and popsicles as well to help relieve the pain. Adults can benefit from similar methods. There are also many throat sprays and over-the-counter pain medications that can provide short-term relief until you can schedule your appointment with one of our amazing doctors.

When To See A Doctor

A sore throat alone is not usually a reason to run to see a doctor. However, when your sore throat is combined with other more severe symptoms it can be more dangerous and contagious. Here is a list of symptoms you should look out for when you have a sore throat.

  • A sore throat that is severe or lasts longer than a week

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Difficulty opening your mouth

  • Joint pain

  • Rash

  • Fever higher than 101 F (38.3 C)

  • Blood in your saliva or phlegm

  • Frequently recurring sore throats

  • A lump in your neck

  • Hoarseness lasting more than two weeks

  • Swelling in your neck or face
Lee A. Kleiman

Dr. Lee A. Kleiman is a double board certified ENT & plastic surgeon at Anne Arundel ENT in Annapolis, Maryland known for his superior clinical outcomes in all Surgical and Non-Surgical ENT, specializing in Sinus Care, Voice and Swallowing, Rhinoplasty and Revision Rhinoplasty, and Facelifts and Non-surgical Aesthetic. He also continues to attend conferences internationally and nationally to keep abreast of the latest treatments and technology.