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Sore Throat

(Pharyngitis; Tonsillopharyngitis; Throat Infection)

Definition

A sore throat is the general name for two common conditions:
Sore Throat Due to Inflammation
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Causes

Many things can cause a sore throat, such as:

Risk Factors

Sore throats are more common children, teens, or people aged 65 years and older. Other factors that may increase your chance of a sore throat include:

Symptoms

Along with the sore throat, you may have other symptoms, such as:

When Should I Call My Doctor?

Call your doctor if you:
  • Experience a worsening of your sore throat or the symptom lasts longer than you or your doctor expect
  • Have difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Have developed other symptoms, such as:
    • White patches on tonsils (may be a sign of strep throat)
    • Enlarged lymph nodes on your neck
    • Rash
    • Fever
    • Earache
    • Lightheadedness
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Muscle or joint aches
    • Fatigue
    • Blood in saliva
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests calling your child's doctor if your child has a sore throat that goes on for more than 1 day (no matter what other symptoms are present).
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will do a physical exam. This involves looking closely at your mouth, throat, nose, ears, and the lymph nodes in your neck.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the cause of the sore throat. Options may include:

Medications

  • Pain relievers or fever reducers
    • Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.
  • Antibiotics for a sore throat caused by a bacterial infection
  • Throat lozenges
  • Decongestants and antihistamines to relieve nasal congestion and runny nose
  • Numbing throat spray for pain control in older children and adults, although the relief is very short-lived
  • Corticosteroids if there is trouble breathing

Home Care

Self-care steps you can do at home:
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Try warm liquids (tea or broth), or cool liquids
  • Gargle with warm saline several times a day
  • Avoid irritants that might affect your throat, such as tobacco smoke and cold air
  • Avoid drinking alcohol

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of a sore throat:

RESOURCES

Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics http://www.healthychildren.org

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases http://www.niaid.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Society of Otolaryngology http://www.entcanada.org

Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

References

Brink AJ, Cotton MF, et al. Guideline for the management of upper respiratory tract infections. S Afr Med J. 2004;94:475-483.

Choby BA. Diagnosis and treatment of streptococcal pharyngitis. Am Fam Physician. 2009;79(5):383-390.

Pharyngitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 25, 2014. Accessed September 29, 2014.

Sore throat. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/sore-throat.html. Updated May 2014. Accessed September 29, 2014.

Sore throat. Patient UK website. Available at: http://www.patient.co.uk/health/sore-throat-leaflet. Accessed November 20, 2013. Accessed September 29, 2014

The difference between a sore throat, strep and tonsillitis. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/ear-nose-throat/Pages/The-Difference-Between-a-Sore-Throat-Strep-and-Tonsillitis.aspx. Updated May 28, 2014. Accessed September 29, 2014.

Throat problems. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/health-tools/search-by-symptom/throat-problems.html. Accessed September 29, 2014.

Vincent MT, Celestin N, et al. Pharyngitis. Am Fam Physician. 2004;69(6):1465-1470.

11/10/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Hayward G, Thompson M, Heneghan C, Perera R, Del Mar C, Glasziou P. Corticosteroids for pain relief in sore throat: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2009;339.

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