Sore throat

Updated 12 August 2016

5 signs your sore throat could be serious

Often we are tempted to treat a sore throat at home but it can be a symptom of something far more serious.

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A sore throat is a common health complaint, especially amongst children. While most sore throats are a result of a cold or flu virus, hay fever or other allergies, they can also be a symptom of a more serious conditions. The South African Pharmacist's Assistant recommends seeing a doctor as soon as possible if any of these factors apply to you:

1. Swelling of the neck and/or tongue

Swelling and pain in the neck is often the result of inflamed or enlarged lymph glands, the NHS explains. Lymph glands (also called nodes) often swell in response to an infection in the body. Swollen glands can be caused by tonsilitis, glandular fever and even the common cold. Unfortunately, glandular inflammation can also be a symptom of cancer, HIV, lupus and syphilis. 

As in the neck, swelling in the tongue coupled with a sore throat is usually caused by an infection such as pharyngitis, tonsilitis, strep throat or laryngitis. Because swelling in the tongue can restrict breathing, it is always best to seek medical treatment immediately.

2. A skin rash

A skin rash along with a sore throat is often an indication of childhood illnesses such as chickenpox, measles and rubella, Medline Plus explains. These conditions can be severe, leading to secondary infections or even death.

Read: 9 ways to prevent a sore throat

3. Fever

A sore throat can often be accompanied by fever - especially in children suffering from a viral or bacterial infection. In babies and young children, a fever should always be taken seriously. If your child's temperature measures over 37°C or you suspect your child has a fever but have no thermometer to measure their temperature, seek medical attention urgently. Untreated fever in babies and young children can result in serious complications such as seizures.

4. Stiff neck

A stiff neck together with a sore throat are signs of meningitis - a serious, life-threatening infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Those suffering from meningitis often have difficulty moving their chin towards their chest. Other symptoms can include fever, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light. 

5. Drooling

Drooling with a sore throat may be a sign that that the sick person is having difficulty swallowing. This should be addressed quickly, especially in children, as difficulty swallowing can result in dehydration and other complications.

Other scenarios that warrant a trip to the doctor:

Sore throat lasts longer than seven days or that has not responded to treatment after a week

- If you are pregnant and notice any other symptoms, especially fever

- If you suffer from an immune-comprising condition such as diabetes, HIV or cancer

Remember, when in doubt, phone your doctor to see if you need to book an appointment. When it comes to health, it is always best to be safe rather than sorry.

Read more:

Sore throats tied to scary bacteria

Sore throat solutions

Natural approach to tonsilitis

Image: Ill girl child with thermometer in mouth from Shutterstock

 

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