Sore Throat Symptoms

By Ashley Henshaw. May 7th 2016

Most people have experienced a sore throat every now and again. It’s usually quite uncomfortable and can make it painful to talk or swallow. Fortunately, there are a lot of great home remedies and other treatments to help relieve and cure a sore throat.


A sore throat is the term used to describe the experience of pain, dryness, scratchiness or irritation of the throat. This pain typically becomes worse when the person with a sore throat tries to speak or swallow. In some case, swallowing may even seem a little more difficult than usual. This is due to the fact that inflammation of the pharynx is often the main cause of the sore throat.


There are many symptoms that may accompany a sore throat. In some cases, only one or two symptoms will be present, while in other cases there will be numerous symptoms experienced with a sore throat. The possible signs and symptoms of sore throat include:

  • Dryness in the throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain that worsens when swallowing
  • Scratchy feeling in the throat
  • Pain in the throat
  • Pain that worsens when talking
  • A hoarse or muffled voice
  • White patches or pus on the tonsils
  • Swollen, red tonsils
  • Swollen, sore glands in the neck or jaw

When the sore throat is caused by an infection, other signs and symptoms may include:

  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

It’s important to be very alert if you suspect that a small child or infant may have a sore throat since they may not be able to verbalize their feelings or symptoms. One way to tell if a baby or child has a sore throat is to see if they are avoiding eating, since this is a common sign of sore throat in this age group.

Causes And Risk Factors

There are a few causes of sore throat that account for most cases of this condition, including:

  • Viral infections: Examples include the common cold, the flu, mononucleosis, chickenpox, croup, measles
  • Bacterial infections: Examples include strep throat, whooping cough and diphtheria
  • Allergies: Allergies to mold, dust, pollen and pet dander are common triggers for sore throat
  • Dry indoor air: This is common in winter when buildings are heat
  • Outdoor air pollution
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Spicy foods
  • Alcohol
  • Strained muscles in the throat
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

There are additional potential causes of sore throat which are less common. Two examples are HIV infection and cancerous tumors of the throat.


Since a large percentage of cases of sore throat are caused by viral and bacterial infections, one of the best preventative measures for this condition is practicing good hygiene to avoid contagious germs. That includes washing hands thoroughly and frequently, not sharing food, glasses or utensils and avoiding close contact with those who are sick.

Other methods to preventing sore throat involve lifestyle changes. For example, if you smoke, you should try to quit and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. Additionally, you can use a humidifier if the air in your home is dry and stay indoors on high-pollution days if you have allergies.

Home Care

In most cases, a sore throat can be treated at home using certain remedies. These might not get rid of the sore throat since the underlying condition may need to be treated in order for that to happen, but they can provide a great amount of relief for the condition. The following are some of the best home care techniques for treating a sore throat:

  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Rest your voice as much as possible
  • Drink lots of water
  • Have warm liquids like broth, tea or warm water with honey
  • Have cold treats like ice cream or popsicles
  • Gargle saltwater (1 tsp. salt to 8 oz. warm water) then spit it out
  • Suck on lozenges (Note: not safe for those under the age of 5)
  • Use a cool-air humidifier
  • Sit in a steamy bathroom for several minutes
  • Treat pain and fever with ibuprofen or acetaminophen

(For more tips on home care, read 10 Simple Ways To Soothe A Sore Throat For Calming Relief.)


There are a few instances where a sore throat requires immediate medical treatment. If any of the following problems occur along with a sore throat, see a doctor right away:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty opening the mouth
  • Joint pain
  • Rash
  • Fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • A lump in the neck
  • Earache

The medical treatment for sore throat will vary depending on the cause of the condition. For example, those with a bacterial infection typically receive a prescription for antibiotics to treat their condition. However, with viral infections, the sore throat and the infection will usually disappear in about 5 to 7 days. If a sore throat persists for longer than a week, make an appointment with your doctor.


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