Cold and flu season is here and with it plenty of sniffly noses, stuffed sinuses, and sore throats. It wouldn’t be winter without a sore throat here and there. In most cases, a sore throat is merely a frustrating symptom that requires softer foods and plenty of soothingly warm tea with honey until it gets back to normal. Unfortunately, not every sore throat is something to be waited out. In some cases, a sore throat is a more serious illness or infection.
Sore throats and what causes them
We’re all familiar with the slightly scratchy, dry or uncomfortable feeling that signals the start of a sore throat. It may gradually become painful to swallow and a quick peek into the back of your mouth reveals an angry redness that probably echoes how you feel about the situation.
Millions of people deal with sore throats each year. While they can happen for a variety of reasons, even especially dry winter air, these are some of the most common causes:
Cold virus – If you find your nose stuffed, your body tired and a scratchiness in your throat that wasn’t there yesterday, chances are you’ve been hit with a cold virus. A sore throat is a common symptom of these (and similar) viruses.
Allergies – It’s not uncommon for the drip, drip, drip of allergy-induced post nasal drip to irritate the delicate lining of the throat causing a sore throat.
Reflux – In some cases, acid reflux can make it all the way up to the throat. The caustic acid then causes a sore throat.
Bacterial infection – While Strep Throat is the usually the first infection to come to mind (thousands are diagnosed with it each year!), this isn’t the only bacteria that can cause a sore throat. Often an extremely painful sore throat at that.
There are many causes of sore throats, but how do you know when yours requires a trip to the doctor?
Treating a sore throat
In most cases, treating a sore throat requires plenty of patience, warm water and some throat lozenges with an occasional dose of pain reliever to curb more severe soreness. This is because the majority of sore throats are caused by viruses that have to go away on their own. When a virus is the cause, a sore throat is often accompanied by other symptoms such as a runny nose or excessive tiredness.
In cases where there are no other common cold symptoms but symptoms such as fever, headache or stomach ache or pain is persistent, severe and does not improve after a day, you may need to schedule an appointment with your doctor. They will take a closer look and may run additional tests to determine the cause of the sore throat and how best to treat it.
How to prevent a sore throat
The best way to avoid sore throats is also the simplest and best way to avoid getting sick. Wash your hands regularly to prevent viruses and bacteria.
If you have questions about sore throats or believe you may have a sore throat that needs medical attention, contact our office to schedule an appointment.