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 throat (pharynx). 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 resolves on its own with at-home care. Strep throat (streptococcal infection), a less common type of sore throat caused by bacteria, requires additional treatment with antibiotic drugs to prevent complications.

Other less common causes of sore throat may require more complex treatment.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Prevention

Symptoms of a sore throat may vary depending on the cause. Signs and symptoms 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

Common infections causing a sore throat may result in other signs and symptoms, as well. They may include:

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

When to see a doctor

Take your child to a doctor if your child's sore throat doesn't go away with the first drink in the morning, recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Get immediate care if your child has severe signs such as:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Unusual drooling, which may indicate an inability to swallow

If you're an adult, see your doctorif you have a sore throat and any of the following associated problems occur, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology:

  • A sore throat that is severe or lasts longer than a week
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty opening your mouth
  • Joint pain
  • Earache
  • Rash
  • Fever higher than 101 F (38.3 C)
  • Blood in saliva or phlegm
  • Frequently recurring sore throats
  • A lump in your neck
  • Hoarseness lasting more than two weeks

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