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Treating a Sore Throat

Treating a Sore Throat

A sore throat is a common feeling of irritation, pain, or scratchiness in the throat. In many cases, the feeling becomes worse when swallowing. Talking and coughing can cause additional irritation. In most cases, a sore throat is not a serious medical concern and will clear up on its own without medical attention. Sometimes, however, soreness in the throat can be caused by factors that require treatment.

Causes of a Sore Throat

Many sore throats are caused by the viral infections that cause the flu and the common cold. Other viral illnesses that may affect the throat include chickenpox, croup, measles, and mononucleosis. Less often, bacterial infections such as strep throat, diphtheria, and whooping cough can cause a sore throat. Other causes may include dryness, indoor or outdoor irritants, allergies, muscle strain, HIV infection, gastroesophageal reflux disease, more commonly known as GERD, or tumors of the throat, voice box, or tongue.

Numerous factors may make certain individuals more likely to develop sore throats. Children and teenagers are more likely to develop sore throats and bacterial infections. Other risk factors include smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke, exposure to chemical irritants, chronic sinus infections, allergies, lowered immunity, or living or working in close quarters where viral and bacterial infections can spread easily.

When to Seek Medical Attention

When a sore throat is severe, chronic, or accompanied by other symptoms, it should be evaluated by a medical professional. In many cases, the cause can be determined during a simple office visit. During the office visit, the doctor will perform a physical examination that includes looking at the throat and nasal passages. He or she will also ask questions about the symptom and any other problems the patient may be experiencing. In some cases, additional testing may be needed. Common tests for sore throats include throat swabs, blood tests, and allergy testing. When a cause cannot be determined, the patient may be referred to an ear, nose, and throat specialist for further treatment.

Treatment Options

In most cases, a sore throat will subside on its own. When a bacterial infection is present, however, an antibiotic is usually necessary. Other treatments vary depending upon the cause of a sore throat. Many causes can be treated through various prescription medications. When allergies are the cause of a sore throat, patients may be advised to avoid certain irritants and allergens. Lifestyle changes may also be recommended. In rare cases, more advanced treatment such as surgery is required.

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