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Symptoms and treatments for a sore throat

A sore throat often feels like a scratchy, irritated, or dry sensation in the throat. It can be accompanied by pain or discomfort when swallowing or talking. Sometimes, the throat may feel swollen, and there might be a sensation of a lump or tightness. Coughing and hoarseness are also common with a sore throat. In more severe cases, the throat might be red and inflamed, and you could experience difficulty in breathing or a persistent urge to clear your throat.

The duration of a sore throat depends on its cause. Sore throats caused by viral infections like the common cold typically last around 3 to 7 days, while bacterial infections like strep throat may improve within a week with antibiotics. Allergies, environmental factors, and vocal strain can also contribute to sore throats, which usually resolve within a week. If a sore throat persists beyond a week, worsens, or is accompanied by severe symptoms, it's advisable to consult a healthcare professional for evaluation and appropriate guidance.

Sore throat causes

  • Viral infections

  • Bacterial infections

  • Allergies

  • Dry air

  • Environmental irritants

  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

  • Strain or overuse

  • Postnasal drip

  • Tonsillitis

  • Dehydration

  • Foreign objects


Sore throat symptoms

  • Throat discomfort

  • Painful swallowing

  • Hoarseness

  • Sore glands

  • Redness and inflammation

  • Coughing

  • Runny nose

  • Sneezing

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulty swallowing


Sore throat treatment options

  • Rest and hydration: Get plenty of rest and drink fluids (water, herbal tea, broths) to stay hydrated and soothe the throat.

  • Humidification: Use a humidifier in your room to add moisture to the air and prevent the throat from drying out.

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers: Non-prescription pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) can help reduce pain and inflammation. Follow dosing instructions and consult a doctor if you have any concerns.

  • Warm liquids: Drink warm liquids like tea with honey, warm water with lemon, or soothing herbal infusions to provide relief.

  • Avoid irritants: Stay away from tobacco smoke, pollutants, and other irritants that can exacerbate throat discomfort.

  • Steam inhalation: Inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water (while taking care not to burn yourself) can help alleviate congestion and throat irritation.

  • Rest your voice: Minimize talking or whispering to give your vocal cords a chance to rest and heal.

  • Antibiotics (If Necessary): If a bacterial infection (such as strep throat) is confirmed, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.

  • Medical consultation: If your sore throat is severe, persistent, accompanied by high fever, or if you have difficulty breathing, consult with a Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group primary care provider for proper evaluation and treatment.


When should I see a doctor for sore throat?

  • Severe symptoms: If your sore throat is extremely painful, making it difficult to swallow, breathe, or talk.

  • High fever: If you have a fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, especially if it's accompanied by other symptoms.

  • Pus or white patches: If you notice white patches or pus on your tonsils or the back of your throat.

  • Persistent symptoms: If your sore throat lasts for more than a week or if it doesn't improve after a few days of home remedies.

  • Difficulty breathing: If you experience difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or a feeling of choking.

  • Swelling: If you have swelling in your neck or difficulty opening your mouth.

  • Dehydration: If you're having trouble drinking fluids due to throat pain, leading to dehydration.

  • Recurrent sore throats: If you have frequent sore throats (several times a year) or if they're accompanied by other concerning symptoms.

  • Suspected strep throat: If you suspect you have strep throat, characterized by severe pain, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. Strep throat requires prompt treatment with antibiotics.

  • Weakened immune system: If you have a compromised immune system due to a medical condition or medication.

  • Difficulty swallowing: If you find it extremely difficult to swallow even liquids.

  • Ear pain: If your sore throat is accompanied by severe ear pain.

  • Rash: If you develop a rash, particularly if it's a red, sandpaper-like rash associated with strep throat (scarlet fever).

  • Concern for other illnesses: If you have concerns that your sore throat might be related to a more serious illness, especially during outbreaks of contagious diseases.

It's important to trust your instincts and seek medical attention if you're unsure or if your symptoms are causing significant discomfort or worry. A Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group primary care provider can properly diagnose the cause of your sore throat and recommend appropriate treatment.

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