According to the Mayo Clinic, a sore throat is a pain, scratchiness, or irritation of the throat that can often worsen when you swallow or try to speak. The most common cause of a sore throat (pharyngitis) is a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu. A sore throat caused by a virus can usually be resolved independently; however, you may want to seek medical treatment if your symptoms worsen.
Strep throat (streptococcal infection) is a less common type of sore throat caused by bacteria and requires antibiotics to prevent further infection or health-related complications.
Symptoms of a Sore Throat
Symptoms of a sore throat can widely vary depending on the cause of the infection. Symptoms or signs of a sore throat might include:
Pain or a scratchy feeling in the throat
Pain that worsens with swallowing or talking
Sore, swollen glands in your neck or jaw
Swollen, red tonsils
White patches or pus on your tonsils
What Causes a Sore Throat?
Generally speaking, a sore throat is caused by viruses that also cause the common cold and are less often caused by bacterial infections.
Viruses that can cause a sore throat include:
Croup (children only)
Chickenpox or measles (if unvaccinated)
Bacterial infections less often cause sore throats; however, strep throat can be diagnosed when streptococcus pyogenes are present.
Allergies - When allergens such as pet dander, dust, pollen, or other irritants (air pollution, spicy food, tobacco smoke) are present, a sore throat can occur.
Muscle strain - Strained muscles in the throat can cause your throat to become sore by talking loudly, talking for long periods of time, or yelling.
When to See a Doctor for a Sore Throat
It is advised by the American Academy of Otolaryngology to reach out to your (or your child’s doctor) if your sore throat doesn’t go away after drinking water or tea in the morning. Or if you are experiencing difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, or unusual drooling, which can prevent you from swallowing.
You should also consider seeing a doctor if the following signs or symptoms worsen or are present for more than a week:
Difficulty opening your mouth
Fever over 101 F
Have blood in your saliva or phlegm
A lump in your neck
Swelling in your face or neck