Patient's Complete Guide to Sore Throat

Overview of Sore Throat

A sore throat also known as (Galay ki Kharabi Ya Sozish/ گلے کی خرابی یا سوزِش) is the type of infection in which an individual feels pain, scratchiness, burning sensation at the back of the throat. As the sore throat gets worse, it changes into a cold or flu.

In colder months, sore throat infection is at its peak. People are more prone to bacteria or viruses of respiratory disease.

 It is caused due to:

  • Viral infection (pharyngitis)
  • Bacterial infection (strep throat

Prevalence of Sore Throat

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, strep throat is found majorly in children.  About 20-30 percent in children, while 5-15 percent in adults suffer from sore throat.

A survey revealed that around 100 per 1000 people are being affected by a sore throat. 30% of cases were caused by the viral infection, while 64% of patients were diagnosed with presumedly bacterial etiology.

Signs and Symptoms of Sore Throat

The symptoms of a sore throat can vary depending on the cause of infection, whether it is viral or bacterial. Some of the common symptoms of sore throat are:

  • Feeling Pain or a scratchy sensation in the throat
  • Hard to swallow
  • Sore, swollen glands in your neck or jaw
  • Swollen, red tonsils
  • White patches or pus on your tonsils
  • A rough voice

Other major signs include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Nausea (or vomiting)
  • Headache
  • Body aches

Types of Sore Throat

Based on the severity of the sore throat, it is divided into two types:

  • Acute Sore Throat: Sudden attack of a virus or bacteria can cause a sore throat that lasts for less than two or three weeks. It is called acute sore throat. Symptoms of the acute sore throat are:
  • Burning sensation
  • Dryness
  • Fever
  • Cold
  • Hoarseness
  • Chronic or Constant Sore Throat: It is the inflammation of the throat that recurs multiple times. It is normally caused by:
  • Smoking
  • Spicy food
  • Chronic pharyngitis

Causes of Sore Throat

Viruses and bacteria are two main causes of a sore throat. Viral infection is, however, more common than a bacterial infection. The influenza virus is notorious for causing cold, flu and sore throat.

  • Viral Infections

Following viral infections are famous for causing sore throat:

  • Flu(Influenza)
  • Common cold
  • Mono (mononucleosis)
  • Measles
  • Chickenpox
  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

    Bacterial Infections

Streptococcus bacteria are responsible for causing Strep throat. This sore throat due to bacterial infection is diagnosed by:

  • Having a fever greater than 101°F
  • White patches on the throat
  • Swollen glands in the neck area

If it is not treated properly, it may increase the risk of rheumatic fever or kidney inflammation in children.

Apart from the viral and bacterial infections, sore throat is caused by other factors as well such as:

  • Allergies

 Sore throat is triggered if you are suffering from any allergy. Pet dander, moulds, dust, and pollen can cause a sore throat.

  • Dryness

 Dry air can also make the throat rough and scratchy. Additionally, it can cause breathing difficulties such as chronic nasal congestion that can cause a dry, sore throat.

  • Irritants

 Different kinds of irritants stimulate sore throat problems. It can be outdoor air pollution or indoor pollution such as:

  • Tobacco or smoke
  • Harmful chemicals 
  • Alcohol 
  • Spicy foods
  • Muscle Stress

 Throat muscles can be stressed due to yelling, talking loudly, or talking for long periods without rest.

  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

 It is digestive reflux in which stomach acids back up in the food pipe (esophagus). This can cause the esophagus to be inflamed so you can feel discomfort in the throat.

  • HIV Infection

 An individual infected with HIV positive may also have a sore throat and other flu-like symptoms.

  • Tumours

 Abnormal growth of cancerous cells in the throat, tongue, or voice box (larynx) can cause a sore throat as well. The symptoms of sore throat due to a tumour can be:

  • Rough voice
  • Hard to swallow
  • Noisy breathing
  • A lump in the neck
  • Blood in saliva or phlegm.

Risk Factors of Sore Throat

A sore throat can be experienced by anyone but some factors put you at high risks, such as:

  • Allergies
  • Close quarters
  • Weak immune system
  • Teenage and children
  • Tobacco exposure
  • Chronic sinus infection

Health Complication of Sore Throat

Sore throat affects the airways and causes breathing problems. People with sore throats are also at risk of developing asthma and sinus infection. Infections in the ear and lungs are also common medical conditions that occur due to a sore throat.

Prevention

There are various ways to prevent sore throat such as:

  • Stay away from ill people
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly
  • Avoid eating food and sharing utensils with a sick person
  • Add a healthy diet to the lifestyle
  • Get plenty of rest and keep yourself hydrated
  • Avoid spicy foods and fizzy drinks

Diagnosis

Initially, the diagnosis of a sore throat is done through physical examination of the patients that include:

  • To look at the condition of the throat, ears, and nasal passages with the help of a torch.
  • Gently touch the neck to examine the state of swollen glands (lymph nodes.
  • Using a stethoscope for the patient's breathing noise.

Other diagnostic tests include:

  • A Throat Swab Test

It is conducted in some cases of bacterial infection, to detect the Streptococcus bacteria. It is a very simple test and easy test in which throat culture, secretion, or antigen is taken from the throat for the analysis. In this test, a specialist rubs the sterile swab over the back of the throat and gets a secretion sample. The sample is delivered to the lab for further testing. The result will come out within 24hs to 48hrs. It depends on the type of material that obtain from the throat if it is:

  • Rapid Antigen Test

Its procedure is the same as the aforementioned. The type of culture and duration of the result however differs from what it will receive to the patients within a few minutes.

  • Throat Culture Test

If rapid antigen test results come out negative then the doctor may recommend throat culture. It is more reliable than an antigen test, but after testing, results will take almost 24 to 48 hrs.

  • Molecular Test

It is the latest test to diagnose the cause of sore throat. It is a more reliable, fast and accurate method of testing.

Treatment of Sore Throat | When to Consult a Doctor

Sore throat is a common illness that everyone at least once in their lifetime suffers from. There are many home remedies as well as proper treatment options for sore throat.

  • Home Remedies for Sore Throat

It can be easy and quick steps to manage the inflammation of the sore throat at home by using natural methods. 

You can get relief from the sore throat by opting for any of the following home remedies:

  1. Gargle with a mixture of warm water and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt, gives a soothing effect to the throat.
  2. Drinking warm drinks provides comfort to the throat. Examples of such drinks are:
  • Hot tea with honey
  • Soup 
  • Warm lemon water 
  • Herbal teas 
  1. Steam nasal therapy.
  2. Place a cool-mist humidifier to add moisture to the room. Less talking and giving rest to your throat would also make you feel better.
  • Medications

If sore throat is due to viral infection then OTC drugs are more preferable such as:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin)
  • Aspirin. It is not recommended for children or teenagers having Reye's syndrome because it can cause swelling of the brain and liver.

If it is a bacterial infection that causes sore throat, then the best medicines for the sore throat are antibiotics.

(Note: Take medications only after doctor’s consultation)

 

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