A sore throat- A sore throat is pain, scratchiness or irritation of the throat that often worsens when you swallow.
A sore throat is the primary symptom of pharyngitis — inflammation of the pharynx, or throat. But the terms “sore throat” and “pharyngitis” are often used interchangeably.
The most common cause of a sore throat is a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu. A sore throat caused by a virus usually resolves on its own with at-home care. A bacterial infection, a less common cause of sore throat, requires additional treatment with antibiotic drugs.
Other less common causes of sore throat may require more complex treatment.
Symptoms of a sore throat may vary depending on the cause.
Signs and symptoms of sore throat may include:
- Pain or a scratchy sensation in the throat
- Pain that worsens with swallowing or talking
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dry throat
- Sore, swollen glands in your neck or jaw
- Swollen, red tonsils
- White patches or pus on your tonsils
- Hoarse or muffled voice
- Refusal to eat (infants and toddlers)
Common infections causing a sore throat may result in other accompanying signs and symptoms:
- Runny nose
- Body aches
- Nausea or vomiting
A sore throat caused by viral infection — the most common cause — usually lasts five to seven days and doesn’t require medical treatment.
Treating bacterial infections
If your sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics. Penicillin taken by mouth for 10 days is the most common antibiotic treatment prescribed for infections such as strep throat. If you’re allergic to penicillin, your doctor will prescribe an alternative antibiotic.
You must take the full course of antibiotics as prescribed even if the symptoms go away completely. Failure to take all of the medication as directed may result in the infection worsening or spreading to other parts of the body. Not completing the full course of antibiotics to treat strep throat can, in particular, increase a child’s risk of rheumatic fever and serious kidney inflammation.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what to do if you forget to take a dose.
If a sore throat is a symptom of a condition other than a viral or bacterial infection, other treatments will likely be considered depending on the diagnosis.